WERA 96.7 FM will come alive on Monday, December 6th at 3:00pm. Listeners in Arlington, northern Virginia and most areas of the District will be served by the new station’s signal. Anyone, anywhere, will be able to hear WERA online [link].
WERA is the latest project by Arlington Independent Media (AIM) [link] a community access nonprofit established in 1982.
AIM operates Arlington’s public access cable TV channel and provides training, resources, facilities, and equipment for residents to produce their own programming.
The effort that created WERA began In early 2012 when a small group of Arlington residents convinced AIM to be a partner to file for a LPFM application. AIM received FCC approval for the new LPFM station in June 2014. Construction of a state-of-the-art audio production room is now complete.
THIS STATION “WAS MADE FOR YOU AND ME”
WERA will begin on December 6th by playing Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, according to Paul LeValley, CEO of AIM. After that, the schedule will be made up of programming that is similar to AIM’s cable access TV channel – volunteer created programs featuring talk, music, news, and event coverage, many in languages other than English.
WERA is now accepting applications for programs. The 15 members of the Programming Advisory and Review Council will review the applications and create the program schedule.
TIME FOR A REALITY CHECK
Though I am excited whenever a new radio voice appears, I urge the founders of WERA to reconsider doing community public access programming on broadcast and streaming platforms. In fact, even senior leadership at AIM questions the viability of public access media.
Last year, Cameron Pippitt, President and Chairman of the Board Arlington Community Access Corporation wrote in AIM’s annual report:
A frequent topic of discussion among Board members and in our deliberations has been whether “community access” has outlived its usefulness as a rationale for AIM. Almost everyone now has access to the internet which provides nearly all the “access” one could ask for. However, all that access does not mean anyone is necessarily watching (an argument that can equally be directed at our TV programming).
It will likely be the same for WERA unless they get serious about doing actual radio.
It sounds like WERA will be a checkerboard of little programs meant to appeal to small slices of audience. This kind of programming is perfect for podcasts but not for broadcasting.
Most of AIM’s staff comes from cable TV community access backgrounds. This is a subsidized industry paid for by cable subscribers in their monthly fees. This is a very, very different world than radio broadcasting and streaming audio. WERA’s management should think bigger. The above signal would be a great place for a noncom Triple A station.