|Progressive Ideas & Music Off the Beaten Track @ 99.1|
"A wellspring of progressive ideas..." that's how one of the new 2017 station IDs for WIDE-LP starts. Broadcasting on Madison's west side since 2008, we have always included talk shows with progressive ideas in our programming, but with the new year we are trying to bring that into focus. Prompted in part by the post-election demise of "progressive talk" on one of Madison's commercial radio stations, we have changed the slogan on our website at widelp.org to "Progressive Voices on the Air."
Music is what you will hear most of the time at 99.1 FM, but the talk starts at 9 am each day. Monday through Friday 9 am is when you will hear Democracy Now! and at 9 am on Saturday you'll hear CounterSpin. On Saturday's and Sunday's you will also hear Progressive Voices, our spot for talks given annually at Fighting Bob Fest, Wisconsin Democracy Report, and the Freethinkers Hour. New this year are podcasts from Conatus News, calling themselves "The Voice of Progressivism" in England, heard Sundays at 6 pm, and "Bill Moyers in Conversation", heard Mondays at 6 pm. Books & Writers at 4 pm Wednesdays often features interviews of authors with progressive ideas, and Battleground Wisconsin at 4 pm on Fridays lets you hear observations on what's happening politically here in our state from Citizen Action of Wisconsin. For our full weekly schedule at a glance see http://madisonwi.us/WIDE-LP/schedule/, and for notification of talk show topics coming up the following day follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/WIDE_LP.
The color coding in our weekly schedule chart shows the variety in the music we air. Largely staying away from the pop/rock, country and classical offerings regularly found on other area stations, we offer an alternative mix, a daily 9 to 10 pm genre hour, and weekend times for music rarely heard in the Madison area including zydeco, Hawaiian, doo wop and uncommon instruments. Listener appreciation shows up in email to the station at firstname.lastname@example.org. One listener pulled off the road on his way to Janesville for 20 min. so that he could hear the rest of our Saturday a cappella hour before getting out of range. Others email to ask us to identify the group or artist performing at a certain time. Here are a couple of heartwarming recent examples: "What songs were played between 8:30 and 8:50am this morning? They were awesome and I want to research the artists" and "Just wondering what the song was that was playing at approx. 7:06-7-8 a.m. this morning?!? Thanks for being a great community radio station!! :)."
"How big an operation is your station?" you may ask. We are about as small as it gets. We have no paid staff, no studio, and no live broadcasting. Everything is controlled by a computer housed in an unheated garage on Orchard Drive in the Midvale Heights neighborhood. We program that broadcast computer through the Internet. Our chief expenses are the annual royalty fees for the music we air and payments for the electricity we use and part of the cost of the shared Internet connection. The station has a 4 member board but day-to-day operation is handled by 2 of us as Program Director and Technical Director. There is also a contribution from the local neighborhood, a weekly Crime Alert segment recorded by the head of Midvale Heights Neighborhood Watch.
The history of our station is unique because we started as a partnership with a Christian group, Each partner had half the air time and paid half the expenses. This partnership ended in 2015 when the Christian group got their own station. Shortly after that we moved the station to its current more central location where we were able to give our broadcast antenna more height. In fact, because of the antenna's height above average terrain in the new location, the FCC required us to reduced our power from 100 to 40 watts. Never-the-less we feel the new location enables us to reach more listeners with less intrusion from a full power Milwaukee station that broadcasts at the same frequency, 99.1 FM. More details about our history are available on our website at http://madisonwi.us/WIDE-LP/history.htm.
Like so many radio stations in Wisconsin and elsewhere, we owe a debt of gratitude to Norman Stockwell for helping us get on the air. The photos below from 2008 show Norm at our first post-testing broadcast location 1) with our microphone and mixing board, and 2) with Laura Gutknecht and Molly Stentz from WORT and Eric Howland, our Technical Director. Molly is recording comments from Eric as we prepare to go on the air for our first regularly scheduled broadcast.
A shorter version of this article was published in the first issue of the newsletter of the Low Power Community Radio of Greater Madison group, an informal association of 5 LPFM radio stations.