Thursday, February 16, 2006

Freeing up the dial

Community radio's beacon of the coast-WERU
Land yachts make great receptors for free-form radio-I’ve always been fond of radio with an eclectic bent. Growing up in the 1970s allowed me to experience FM radio that was truly free-form. Those of us who were privileged to listen to WBLM at that time know exactly what I’m talking about. Eclecticism and variety was the modus operandi for radio during this period, and it wasn’t limited to Maine, or even New England. This was the period before corporations sunk their claws into the fabric of broadcasting and being a DJ actually required some creativity and knowledge of music. It was an age when there truly were radio “personalities” in the truest sense of the word.

Of course, running up and down the radio dial today is an exercise in torture, with pre-programmed formats and playlists that leave little room for variance. The only redeeming aspects of radio in these parts are the community radio stations and a few low-power FM outlets (like Rockland's WRFR-LP).

A community radio beacon down the coast, is WERU, with studios located in East Orland. Whenever I’m within reach of their tower, I’m always envious of the listeners who can pull their signals in on a regular basis. I am aware that they simulcast on the web, but for me, radio is a habit that has always seemed most enjoyable and best listened to, while driving in a car, down some deserted stretch or road, with just you and the music keeping company.

On my way home, on Tuesday afternoon, I stopped by the WERU studios and taped a seven minute segment for their Voices program that will air at a later date. Radio host, Denis Howard, had received a plug about my book, When Towns Had Teams, from a listener, and had contacted me, offering me the opportunity to record a spot if I ever got down his way. This trip allowed me to mix some business with book promotion and we recorded a lively spot that should give the book a bit of a bump. It is welcomed, especially since a good deal of the subject matter (particularly chapter 6) transpires nearby. Furthermore, this area doesn’t have some of the media outlets and weekly publications that I’ve put to good use to market my book in southern Maine.

I have made a point to listen more regularly via the web, but it sure was good to pull in some unique and varied programming over my car radio for parts of two days, in my travels. With WERU holding freeform’s torch aloft in this area of the state, coupled with community stalwart, WMPG, in greater-Portland, Maine has two great community-based occupiers of the state’s radio dial.

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