Community Radio’s Last Chance

Community Radio’s Last Chance

By Jeff Milo
Photos by Jeff Milo and David McNair

Ferndale could still have our own Community Radio Station by the end of the year, but not without help.

“We’re noticing that once people learn about the project, they’re geeked about it” said Dave Phillips, head of communications for Ferndale Community Radio. “But we’ve had difficulty spreading the word on a wide scale.” At the end of September, a two-month campaign to raise $15,000 from individual donors via indiegogo (online) came up short.

The team behind Ferndale Community Radio includes volunteers with a passion for bringing an independent low-power FM station to Ferndale. The primary members are Michelle Mirowski (president and general manager), Dave Phillips (head of communications), Jeremy Olstyn (head of programming and training), and Dave Kim (promotions), and they were able to raise just under $4,000.

They may be down, but they’re not out. There is still a chance, but it is a much smaller chance and the clock ff1561011_radiois ticking even faster, it seems. The team behind FCR has a lot to do, yet. However, with each bringing a substantial amount of experience in broadcasting, journalism and communications, they had known all along, when the idea first sprung among them six years ago, that it would take a lot of things falling in to place for their own “On-Air” sign to light-up.

If they can raise around $15,000 (or more) then they will start erecting a tower for transmitting atop the Rustbelt Market. Those funds will also allow them to start ordering all of the equipment they’ll need (which will likely take months to arrive), and start testing the frequency before broadcast.

Chris Best, co-owner/manager of the Rust Belt Market, expressed considerable enthusiasm last year for partnering with FCR. In fact, it was initially in the Rust Belt’s business plan to eventually help set up and host a community radio station. They just hadn’t anticipated the harder parts of jumping through the various hoops required to get that FCC approval.

Mirowski said that the future plan centers on approaching all of the local businesses and organizations who originally expressed enthusiasm and encouragement toward the campaign to hopefully become underwriters. Ferndale Community Radio is a Michigan nonprofit, so it’s certainly feasible for Ferndale’s business community to help raise them toward the cause of broadcasting.

There could be a number of culprits as to why they fell short of their crowdfunding goal. “I think people are a bit burned out with crowdfunding, unfortunately,” Best said. “It has been watered-down, in many ways. (The Rustbelt) feels fortunate that we were able to make it work for us four years ago, before much of that burn-out occurred. However, we do feel Ferndale Community Radio is the perfect type of project to pursue crowd-funding. So, they are a victim of circumstance.”
Best continued, saying that as soon as everyone becomes better acquainted with the good people behind FCR and realizes the benevolence behind FCR’s mission (locally-curated music programs and Ferndale-centric news reporting), then more donations will doubtless come in.

“(Ferndale Community Radio) would be such a welcomed addition to Ferndale,” Best said. “Think of how wildly popular ‘Ferndale Forum’ is on Facebook… Whether you like Facebook or not, that does show there’s a yearning for a ‘community’ and a way to stay connected with the business, political, and social aspects of this city and surrounding areas.”

There are still a lot of things that have to fall into place like testing the frequency, ordering extra parts, and a handful of other, possibly unforeseeable variables, but what would expedite all of it is the financial support from the public.

“We’ll likely need a structural engineer to look at the tower before it goes up. We need to get the $15,000 needed for equipment by this December, or the whole project is dead…”

The FCR team received a permit for the 100.7 FM spot on the dial from the Federal Communications ff1561011_supportfrCommission, and it shouldn’t be overlooked how rare of an opportunity that is in this day and age. “This might actually be the only chance for Ferndale to have a community FM station,” Mirowski said. “The 100.7 FM frequency might not be open anymore if we miss this. And if we don’t get the funding, it’s not like the FCC is going to say: ‘Oh, take your time, we’ll just hold onto this for you…’ We’d have to wait until this window of opportunity opens again…”

And that could be several years. This is it, Ferndale.

“We’re all over the moon about the support we’ve received from the Rust Belt,” Phillips said. “(Best) and his crew have been very involved, helping spread the word. Regardless of the outcome, we will be forever grateful. We’re also encouraged by the support of the city, our friends and families and other local businesses who have expressed interest in helping out. It’s such a cool thing to see people throw their weight behind a cause you’ve watched grow from nothing into something.”

The desire remains for this team to bring you a terrestrial radio station just for you; something you can tune in to while you’re driving down 9 Mile or chilling at home. No corporate sponsors, no moneyed interests. Just passionate people doing quality radio for the love of it and directing their efforts towards promoting local events, local businesses, local artists, local organizations…ALL FERNDALE.

As we went to print, the FCR team was meeting to hammer out their next moves. But local businesses should start “tuning in” to their mission via Facebook (or online at FerndaleRadio.com), because this non-profit is hoping to find some helpful underwriters. In November, you can anticipate a benefit concert, Mirowski said, hosted at one of Ferndale’s local venues.

Our fingers are crossed…

More information at : Ferndaleradio.com

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