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30 Days Remain To Save WMVY

1-7-2013

WMVY is a heritage Triple A radio station located on Martha's Vineyard in the Cape Cod, Massachusetts, market. Aritaur Communications bought WMVY in the late 90s. Aritaur had been losing money and finally hit the point where they could no longer afford to operate the station. In the fall, Aritaur got an offer from WBUR, an NPR affiliate in Boston. WBUR is only buying the 92.7 signal, so the staff has been running a campaign to keep the station on the air via the Internet.

PJ Finn is the Program Director for WMVY. We spoke to Finn about the campaign and how it's going so far.

What is "Save MVY" all about?
Aritaur had been shopping around for a buyer, hoping to find someone related to the island, who might want to take over and continue the station's mission and programming. A couple of potential situations did not pan out. In the fall, Aritaur got an offer from WBUR. WBUR was looking for signal coverage for the Cape and Islands. That leads to a pretty unusual situation, with a creative solution.

WBUR is only buying the 92.7 signal. The purchase of the signal will allow Aritaur to resolve its debt to the bank, and disengage from what remains of WMVY. What remains? The equipment, the staff, the lease on the building, the online content and the brand. All of this will be donated by Aritaur to "Friends of mvyradio" which is a non-profit entity set up by Public Radio Capital.

This scenario will allow the station to keep all its programming, its DJs, its shows, and its online content---everything except the 92.7 signal---in place.  The station will stream, now as a non-commercial, non-profit. There is also a search for a possible return to the FM band.

The catch is that, financially, Friends of mvyradio starts basically from scratch. So we are taking pledges from listeners to cover the first year's operating costs. Having the first year's finances in shape will allow us to plan for years two and three and beyond, when we can build up underwriting, write grants, etc. What is Save mvyradio about? It's about keeping a long-time, much-loved independent radio voice going into the future.


Why are you guys doing this?
Joe Gallagher, who runs WMVY for Aritaur, is a fan as much as he is an owner. While Aritaur has to sell, I think Joe cares about the future of the station, wants it to be preserved, and has made a deal that can allow that to happen. The staff is doing it because they love the station. The majority of the DJs have been with us for over a decade. We're committed to the cause of independent radio and to the community we serve.

Going non-commercial was something that had been talked about for years as a possible course for WMVY. Fate has forced our hand, so we're going all-in. With the help of Public Radio Capital, we're hoping to not just sustain what we have, but push further, to possibly create a network of stations that would carry mvyradio.com, and/or distribute our homegrown specialty show programming, if we can find interested parties to join us.

How's it going? How much money have you raised so far? Do you think you'll hit the number?
So far, so good.  Our goal is to raise $600K in 60 days. We need to hit that number by the time the sale is completed and WMVY has to vacate 92.7FM (the sale is still pending at the FCC; we expect the transition to happen sometime around the end of January). We have already raised half the money we need, in about half the time we have.

At this point, donations have come from about 2,200 individuals, mostly in the $100 range. I know many people associate Martha's Vineyard with wealth, so yes, we are hoping that some of the folks with means---who listen to the station while they summer here and stream the station while they are away---will step forward to help us reach the goal by writing five- or six-digit checks. We are confident that there are enough committed listeners out there, that we can hit the number.

What is significant about the $600K number?
The $600K represents our estimated operating expenses for 2013. That money will go to the kinds of expenses that all businesses have (office supplies, electric bill), to radio-specific kinds of expenses (ASCAP, BMI, Sound Exchange) and to keeping the staff in place. It's really important to us, and to our listeners, that we continue to generate original programming, with real, live DJs, right from the island---it is the true appeal of the station.


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