WDRT prides itself on being the area’s only community radio station. But what is community radio, anyway and where did it come from?
The first community radio stations in the United States were formed shortly after World War II, when the Federal Communications Commission reserved the lower portion of the FM radio band – from 88 to 92 Mhz – for noncommercial educational broadcasting. While originally intentioned as a resource for large institutions such as schools, churches and universities, some citizens recognized it as an opportunity for radio to be put directly in the hands of The People.
Historically, radio broadcasting was exclusively the realm of paid professionals, and stations were dependent on selling advertising to cover costs and to provide profits for their private owners. Access to the airwaves was highly restricted, and the scope, perspective and type of programming available was limited to what was most profitable.
This began to change shortly after the FCC opened-up the radio dial. In 1946, a group of conscientious objectors formed The Pacifica Foundation, a media organization with the goal to build a nationwide network of non-commercial radio stations. They formed the first ‘listener-sponsored’ community radio station in the United States, KPFA – Berkeley, in 1949. This new model of broadcasting began to spread, and by the 1960’s, community radio stations could be found nationwide.
What made these new stations distinct was their commitment to providing service and access to a specific geographic area. This is the essence of community radio; giving regular people with no experience access to the airwaves, and providing a service to listeners by broadcasting underrepresented music and information, often with a local focus.
Community radio stations have the freedom to do this because of how they are structured and funded. Unlike commercial stations, community stations are organized as non-profit organizations and incorporate volunteers into the operations of the station. Their goal isn’t to profit, but to fulfill a programming mission to serve the community.
Funding isn’t dependent on large corporations or invasive advertising. Instead, community stations rely on the generosity of listeners and support from local businesses to cover operating costs. This provides community radio stations the opportunity to provide a media outlet that is 100% people-powered, and informs, educates and entertains in a way that no other station can do.
So, what is community radio? Simply put, it’s people-powered! If you’ve never listened to WDRT, give it a try. You’ll find our intelligent, interesting and diverse mix of programming to be unparalleled, and you just might hear a friend or neighbor! If you’ve ever wanted to be on the radio, or have something you’d like to share, come on down and volunteer… after all, WDRT is your radio station!