Arlington’s new community radio station has made it off the ground with only the expected growing pains, and is attracting and array of local residents eager to have their voices heard, literally and figuratively, on the airwaves.
“We’re excited. There are new programs coming on each week,” said Jackie Steven, director of community programs for Arlington Independent Media, whose WERA-LP went live Dec. 6.
The station, found at 96.7 on the FM dial, is designated as low-power (hence the “LP”) and transmits from Courthouse to a radius that includes most of Arlington, a healthy chunk of the District of Columbia and portions of surrounding areas, totaling about a half-million potential listeners over the air – and an unlimited number via the Internet.
The non-profit media organization won authority from the Federal Communications Commission two years ago to bring the station to the public airwaves. From that point, the scramble was on to build facilities, secure funding and develop programming.
Fun fact: “WERA” was not the first choice for call letters. That was WAIR, for Arlington Independent Radio, but it already had been assigned. (With a few exceptions, radio stations east of the Mississippi start with “W”; those in the western portion of the country begin with “K.”)
So far, there have been applications for about 100 different programs, with three-quarters of those approved for broadcast. The current schedule includes about 20 regularly produced programs, and 100 people have been trained in radio production.
Steven, who has been on the staff of Arlington Independent Media and its predecessors for 30 years, will go down in history as being the first voice heard on WERA – she signed on with the legal identifier in the midst of a party held to celebrate the debut.
Steven detailed efforts so far during a Jan. 20 meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington. Among those in attendance was Tom Parker, a former economic-development director of the Arlington County government, who took a communications course from Steven several decades ago.
“Arlington is blessed,” Parker said of Steven, calling her “a real asset to this community.”
The fledgling station already has picked up some gravitas – Mary Cliff, known to many around the D.C. radio dial as host of the long-running “Traditions” folk-music program, has been tapped to fill the Saturday-night time slot of 9 p.m. to midnight.
Cliff has more than 40 years of radio experience, including lengthy stints at both WETA and WAMU.
“I’ve done it so long that it’s a responsibility – I’m looking forward to being in a place where people can tune in and hear their kind of music,” she said.
More information on the station, and a link to its live stream, can be found at www.wera.fm.