Approaching its one-year anniversary, boosters of Arlington’s community radio station say the experiment has been a success on several fronts.
Ninety producers have programming on the air or on the way at WERA, a low-power station that signed on last December.
“Arlington loves radio and has embraced WERA in a way that exceeds all expectations,” said Paul LeValley, executive director of Arlington Independent Media (AIM), in a report to supporters.
AIM last year won federal approval to operate the station at 96.7 on the FM band, and since the launch has been grafting the radio operations into existing cable-television and online efforts.
The result has been a healthy degree of – sorry for the buzzword – synergy.
“We’re seeing tremendous crossover between radio and television, and the two groups are trading tips and learning from each other,” LeValley said in AIM’s annual report. “Not only has our membership increased 50 percent, but our longtime members have also welcomed the newcomers with open arms.”
The mood was upbeat at the nonprofit’s annual membership meeting, held Sept. 25 at AIM’s offices and studios in Clarendon.
Andrew Schneider, who hosts a program on the station, said WERA is becoming “part of the cultural and community conversation.”
“There are so many people in Arlington who have a story,” Schneider said.
The station’s signal, broadcast from atop a mid-rise building in Courthouse, has enough strength to reach much of Arlington along with some nearby parts of Northern Virginia, as well as areas in the District of Columbia and Maryland. All told, about 760,000 people live within reach of the new station’s microphones.
While there has been no dearth of programming proposals, fund-raising is coming along more slowly. LeValley said underwriting efforts are apace, and that on-air telethons, for both radio and television, are being considered, if grudgingly.
“All things are possible – when you have money,” he said at the annual meeting. “We know that we have to diversify; we have been as creative as we can. We can make partnerships and arrangements with whomever and whenever we want.”
Gar Young, who was hired by AIM as a development specialist with a focus on securing partnerships and underwriting, said efforts have proved something of a slog but are making headway.
“It’s going to take a lot of effort,” Young said at the annual meeting, where he handed over the first sponsorship check he had garnered.
AIM was approached in 2012 by a group of local residents seeking a partner to get the station on the air. FCC approval to construct the station came in June 2014.
AIM, which was established in 1982 and now has about 800 members, agreed to front the construction costs. But, LeValley said in the days leading up to the 2015 launch, the organization didn’t have the resources to subsidize operating deficits.
“Ultimately, the station must support itself, or this isn’t going to work for the long term,” he said then, pegging the initial annual cost at about $100,000.
Those wishing to provide content need to be AIM members ($25 a year) and take several introductory courses on the organization and the basics of radio production.