Coming on the heels of recent controversy at WPVM, Asheville's low-power FM radio station, more than 60 people have come together to create a new grass-roots station. It's called Asheville Free Media (aka Asheville FM).
The group has already found a home in the back of the building that houses Izzy's Coffee House on Haywood Road in West Asheville, and donations of equipment and money have started flowing in. Supporters planned to start construction of their new studio July 19, and they hope to be broadcasting on the Internet by mid-August.
"I guess it kind of grew out of the WPVM collapse for some of us," says local poet Jeff Davis, whose radio show "WordPlay" aired for four years on the station licensed to the Mountain Area Information Network, an independent Internet service provider in Asheville.
"Then there's this whole group of people who didn't have anything to do with WPVM but are excited about building a new community-based station. We've got folks with really deep radio experience and people who have never seen a microphone up close."
Davis says the group will be streaming live audio on the Internet and will create podcasts to disseminate shows. Asheville FM is online at www.ashevillefm.org.
"We'll look eventually at filing for an FCC license," says Davis, but it's a three- to five-year process — and the federal agency would first have to make more spectrum available for low-power radio stations.
Earlier this year, after months of tension between volunteers and MAIN's executive director, Wally Bowen, WPVM announced changes in both its programming and the way it works with volunteers. In the aftermath, many WPVM volunteers and most of its local programming left the station.
Davis says Asheville FM is looking for more donations of computer equipment and cash. "We're not looking for shows so much as the nitty-gritty stuff to build a station. What we need is infrastructure support." The group is also welcoming additional volunteers, who can contact the station via the Web site.
An Asheville FM spokesperson, Kama Ward, says the station will be a natural fit with the area's music- and talk-radio-loving community. "Ashevilleans have a strong sense of community and creativity, and an interest in localism," she says. "The Internet and technological advances make it possible for most anyone to enter the marketplace of ideas. Radio is one way of doing that."
A note on the Web site suggests the station will carry a wide variety of programming: "Our goal is to add to and reflect the rich stew of arts, culture and community involvement that is Asheville. We want to hear music, news, and the unusual all produced right here in our neck of the woods. We want to hear sounds from around the world, discerned and distilled just for us by our neighbors. We want to help make connections between diverse groups and support the local economy of ideas. We believe people from all parts of our community should have a chance to let their voice be heard."