A new public radio station, WLXL-LPFM/95.7, is going live in the next few weeks and seeks to bring locally driven, community radio — programming produced, broadcasted and operated by local volunteers — to Lexington’s airwaves.
Headed by Lexington Community Radio, the station will function under the Federal Communications Commission designation of Low Power FM (LPFM), which means it must be non-profit, must issue public safety PSAs every hour and it cannot interfere with commercial station’s signals.
“The LPFM designation fosters diversity on the public airwaves, redistributing attention away from national commercial conglomerates,” according to Lexington Community Radio’s website, spearheaded by local advocate and activist, Debra Hensley.
Hap Houlihan, General Manager of Lexington Community Radio, said that Lexington needs community radio because it offers a broad spectrum of programming that is often creative, unique and transformative.
Houlihan also points out that since the 1980s, commercial radio stations are more and more similar to each other — to the point that it can be hard to tell the difference between them.
“They have fewer live DJs, others are completely automated, and they tend to only play very popular music,” Houlihan said. “Community radio stations move away from that same old, same old mentality.”
Ultimately, the programming is up to the volunteer staff, but WLXL wants to have a wide variety of productions.
“We hope to have all kinds of educational shows, informational shows, talk shows, maybe even public forums and entertainment too,” Houlihan said. “And of course, a radio station wouldn’t be a radio station without at least some music.”
Programming on WLXL will prioritize music not commonly heard on commercial radio stations. They also plan to reintroduce radio dramas similar to CBS Radio’s “Mystery Theater.”
Similar community radio projects have been hugely successful and popular in other cities across the U.S., Houlihan said.
Houlihan also noted the different ways that WLXL has the potential to be a positive force in the Lexington community.
One way, he points out, is that volunteer-operated radio stations give people opportunities to experience broadcasting with almost no barrier of entry. This is especially important to low-income individuals who would otherwise have trouble affording the technology required to do radio.
Some of these individuals, Houlihan says, will probably end up making careers out of broadcasting.
On top of that, Latino volunteers at WLXL are already planning Spanish-language focused broadcasts that will help break down the language and cultural barriers that many Latino immigrants face.
If all goes according to plan, these are just a couple ways that WLXL will help Lexington, Houlihan said.
On Tuesday, Lexington Community Radio held a successful test of the station’s capabilities and now only need 36 hours a week of programming to satisfy all the requirements to hit the airwaves.
They hope to have WLXL live in late August or early September and plan to launch another similar local station, WXLU, in the near future.
To celebrate the WLXL launch, Lexington Community Radio is holding a scavenger hunt on Sept. 19 through Lexington’s North End. All are welcome and the last stop of the hunt features a party with prizes, food trucks, and music.
As for what you can expect once the station finally launches, Houlihan has an idea.
“You’re going to hear locally originated programming that’s going to smell and taste a lot more like Lexington than what you are used to hearing.”
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