New Low Power FM station radiates on air in Burlington

Local radio listeners have been enjoying new sounds courtesy of “The Radiator,” a new radio station that launched this fall in Burlington. According to its Web site, “The Radiator” is a “newly licensed noncommercial Low Power FM radio station” that broadcasts using the frequency 105.9 WOMM. Low power FM, as described on the Web site, is FM radio that was created by the FCC as a noncommercial educational service that provides opportunity for new voices that are in tune with local interests and needs. After 1978, this type of radio was banned until FCC chairman William E. Kennard opened a recent one-time only 30-day bid for 100 watt noncommercial stations and “The Radiator” was born. The station is completely commercial free; “there are underwriters that get mentioned, but it is a non-call-to-action form,” said executive board member and developer James Lockridge. According to the station’s Web site, its creation came through a partnership between Lee Anderson, proprietor of The Radio Bean, a well-known Burlington base for local music and art, and James Lockridge, executive director of Big Heavy World, a Burlington-based non-profit focused on preserving and promoting Vermont-made music. The station’s recording studio is located in a tiny second floor nook on 215 College St. in downtown Burlington. Boasting diverse programming such as “Me at the Library, With You, Your Friends, and Your Relatives,” “Beat up the poor” and “Snack Pack Sneak Attack,” “The Radiator” has quite an eclectic mix. However, Anderson sees a congruence amidst all the variety, saying,”we are really trying to exaggerate the similarities and the common denominators we share as a community in Burlington.” Lockridge echoes Anderson’s sentiments with an even more altruistic outlook; “we are not running a radio station because we want to be in the radio industry,” he said. Instead, he says that his goals are simply to provide an outlet and a community base for musicians and causes that stem from within the local Burlington sphere. “In order to qualify to receive a Low Powered FM license you have to be a non-profit, you have to show whoever is reviewing your application that what you are going to be putting out on the air is educational, or a service to the community,” said engineer Sean Larock. “Us pumping in music on a satellite station from across the country is not a service to the community; taking a chunk of 3,000 recordings made by your neighbors, that’s a service to your community.” Larock, a former electronics manager at Recycle North, met Lockridge at a conference a year ago, Anderson said. While Lockridge and Anderson were raising money and developing programming, Larock “came in and accomplished a lot of the physical parts of the station,” said Anderson. Although still in its fledgling stages, “The Radiator” was an idea Anderson said he had been fostering for nearly a decade. “Lee had a vision that was personal for him for a long time about the station, what the personality would be like, what his station would be like,” Lockridge said. “What we wanted to accomplish at Big Heavy World was to create an original broadcast as a platform for young people to get involved in the industry and to pick up some skills and learn and have an outlet of communication for artists in the state.” Lockridge said that the goals of Big Heavy World and Anderson’s goals “just dovetailed perfectly.” This is a goal that seems to have a common thread in the Burlington community. “I’ve only been a part of this project for a year and people have heard about this station for four years now,” Larock said. “The initial flood of people that came in [to be involved] were people that had just been chomping at the bit to do local radio.” So who are the DJs and how did they get involved? “A lot was word of mouth, I specifically asked a lot of people to apply,” Anderson said about the current programming schedule. “[The programming schedule] is not completely filled. We are still getting proposals constantly,” Anderson said. “There is one woman right now who is reaching out to the refugee community and it is going to be like different ethnic refugee groups come in and do shows,” Anderson said. “There is a woman on Wednesdays that does a show called the Next Frontier about disabilities, specifically autism.” Paddy Reagan, a former UVM student, hosts “Hey Hi Hello!” on Tuesdays from 2-4 p.m. “A friend of mine and I, we found out about Lee getting together with Big Heavy World and found out that they were looking for DJs,” Reagan said. “I figure as long as I’m around and [The Radiator] is around, I might as well, it’s just two hours out of my week, it’s so fun.” Reagan is also encouraging about anyone getting involved, including students. “Volunteering anywhere is a great way to get your foot in the door, to do something,” he said. “And as a college student you are broke anyway so you might as well put your time to use in a good way.” DJ Jim Murphy, host of “Full Steam Ahead,” a program that plays “deep cuts active rock” on Fridays from 6-8 p.m., explains the trend in programming the station provides in a time when radio is considered a dying format. “The only way to get people to listen to the radio is personality-based programming,” he said. He relates it to a time before there was a plethora of satellite broadcasts and a proliferation of computer downloading. “The same way they did it in the old days, where you didn’t listen to a radio station, you listened to a radio program,” he said. “You weren’t locked into that station and that’s kind of how ‘The Radiator’ functions. If you like what someone is doing, and you want to listen to some good old fashioned rock and roll, listen two to four – if you keep listening you are going to wind up listening to Bosnian monks for the next two hours. “Maybe someone digs Bosnian monks, that’s cool.”Emma Hazlett contributed to this article.