Happy Birthday WNRB!

I tried to get Dino to write a post about this, but apparently he is too freaked out by the Femmes coming to town.

I had a professor in college once who said “Never spoil a good story by telling it the way it actually happened.” It is in that spirit that I offer the story of WNRB the community radio station that NTC has given to all of us. This was the way I was told things happened, but I don’t know names, dates or anything, so it is just a story.

The story starts somewhere in the pre-internet world where the only radio stations were BIG. It takes big money to start and run a radio station, from the lawyers needed to complete the FCC paperwork to the engineers and electricity it takes to run those big transmitters. With all that money involved, radio stations have been playing it safe and bland for years, literally trying to reach the lowest common denominator and often succeeding completely. Radio stations were supposed to serve the community, but often such “service” was merely lip service.

To counterbalance the BIG impersonal stations some folks proposed a simpler, smaller kind of radio license, something that a group with hundreds instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars could make work. This proposal and others like it were impolitely ignored. So, some people took matters into their own hands, built their own radio stations and tried to put their stamp on their little corner of the media.

Unfortunately, this kind of activism was completely illegal and the FCC shut down many of the pirate stations that popped up. But they couldn’t shut them all down. And somewhere, that idea of a smaller, cheaper radio station license came bubbling up again. So was born the LPFM station. The idea was that a community group, like a chamber of commerce, church or school, could afford the equipment and expertise necessary to construct a small, low power station that would serve a community.

For those not too familiar with radio stations, regular FM stations can broadcast with 100,000 watts of power. In most cases a “regular” FM station that uses 10,000 watts of power would be considered a “small” station. LPFM stations are allowed a maximum power of 100 watts. Very low power indeed. An LPFM station might be able to cover a small town or a section of a large city.

When the FCC first decided to issue LPFM licenses, I am told, a group of people at Northcentral Technical College got together and decided to apply for an LPFM license so that NTC could serve the Wausau area. Meetings were held, plans were made and paperwork was sent to Washington. And then they waited…and waited…and waited.

In fact they waited for five years! They waited so long that there was really no “them” left when the waiting was over. Apparently when the license finally arrived, no one who had actually applied for it was still there and whatever plans had been made had been long forgotten.

To their great credit, the folks at NTC did not send the license back to the FCC, but quickly moved forward with new plans to get a station on the air. One stipulation of a new license is that you only have so long to get your station on the air. The FCC doesn’t want a lot of “paper stations.” So, Dino was hired, volunteers were sought and equipment bought and assembled. Quickly the new station came together and just before time ran out, WNRB went on the air around Memorial Day of 2005.

I want to take this opportunity to thank NTC for not only getting the license, but for truly making WNRB a community station. It certainly would have been possible for them to just make a student station, or one that just served them. But instead they opened their doors to all kinds of programming from all over the Wausau area.

WNRB features many hours of Hmong programming, a Spanish language program, informational programming on health, finances, independent media, the environment and rental housing. We have music from all over the map, from the blues to classical to Jimmy Buffet. High schoolers and senior citizens have programs. They have even let the likes of me on the air. Very generous indeed.

And YOU could be on the air too! Every week on “Whadya Know” Michael Feldman says “Listeners who are sticklers for the truth should get their own show.” Well if you are a stickler of any kind, maybe you need to add your voice to the airwaves and get your own show. On WNRB you can! Give Dino a call at the station at 675-3331, ext. 4858 and get signed up. You can BE THE MEDIA, thanks to NTC and WNRB.

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One response to “Happy Birthday WNRB!

  1. I don’t think this is a place for me to talk about WNRB.

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