Bluegrass FM follows new broadcast model

Bluegrass FMPete Stover, general manager of Bluegrass FM, sent us a note about the launch of their second all bluegrass radio station in Virginia.

What makes this regional story of wider interest is the income stream they use to support the station’s programming. They operate as a private business on the FM spectrum, yet depend on the sort of corporate/business underwriting and listener support that has become familiar on public radio.

I’ll let Pete make his own points…

Bluegrass FM, based in Fredericksburg, VA has opened its second 100% bluegrass 24/7 radio station, WWEM 91.7 in Lynchburg, VA. The station is the second in a growing network of FM broadcast stations which operate commercial-free and are donor-supported through listener and business donations.The first station in the network, WWED 89.5 in Fredericksburg, went 100% bluegrass in June. An application is on file with the FCC to increase WWED’s transmitting power to 10,000 watts due to be granted in early 2009 when TV6 in Richmond relinquishes its analog channel. The increased power will allow WWED to extend its coverage into the Richmond and Charlottesville areas.

Based on early listener response in the first few days, WWEM’s coverage extends from Roanoke to south of Charlottesville and east to Farmville, a “hotbed” region for bluegrass. New listeners have largely stumbled across the station on 91.7 which transmits from Long Mountain in Rustburg, VA several miles SE of Lynchburg.

Business underwriting is available and acknowledgments of donations are broadcast over both stations which provide a huge footprint for bluegrass 24/7 across Virginia. Plans are to put other stations on the air in other localities in the Commonwealth.

For now, Bluegrass FM streams its audio on the web but will likely discontinue a “live” stream due to the “heavy hand” of SoundExchange but it will provide alternative forms of media that will compliment its bluegrass programming on the air.

Could this be the future of niche programming on the public airwaves?

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

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