Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012

Riverwest Radio Reaches Out For (Just a Little Bit) of Support

The D.I.Y. station hosts its first fundraiser Friday at Linneman's

By Evan Rytlewski
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Compared to the weeks-long on-air fundraising drives of some community radio stations, Riverwest Radio’s first fundraising attempt is a decidedly modest effort, a small benefit at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn featuring some of the station’s talent. The Internet-only radio station, which launched this March, operates on an annual budget of about $12,000, and on its website supporters can see where that money goes to: $15 a month for electricity; $95 a year for web hosting; $300 for a new mixing board, etc. “We run a pretty lean operation here, so we don’t need a whole lot of money,” says station coordinator Xav Leplae. “We’re just looking to cover the first quarter of our operating expenses.”

That Riverwest Radio runs without a whole lot of waste won’t surprise anybody who has ever seen the station’s studio—which is to say just about anybody who has recently walked down Center Street, where a makeshift booth with a couple of microphones and a computer is set up in the window of Riverwest Film and Video. A lot of volunteers pass through that tiny studio. The station now hosts about 30 hours of live programming a week—usually between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., the video store’s hours—including call-in shows, sports talk, poetry readings, and radio theater. Each show is posted as a podcast on the site about 45 minutes after it broadcasts.

“It’s just like public access television, where you have some people who are really organized and do a really professional job, and others who pop in unprepared and do a funky job, but sometimes are the ones putting on the most interesting shows,” says Leplae.

The station is in the process of applying for a low-power FM license, with ambitions of broadcasting to about a two-mile radius from a 100-watt transmitter. They should know whether they've been approved by next summer, but since the station is already complying with FCC broadcast regulations, the move to FM wouldn’t substantially change its programming, Leplae says.

“Right now we’re not allowed to broadcast copyrighted material, and that’s been a blessing in disguise,” Leplae says. “I suppose we could theoretically pay the ASCAP music royalty fee, but we made the decision from the get go not to pay it, and do that really pushed us outside of the mindset of doing WMSE-type programming, where DJs come in and play their favorite songs. It pushed our volunteers in the different realm of having to generate material on their own. Anything they broadcast has to be something they create themselves, and that’s inspired some really exciting programs.”
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