The popular local radio station WMVY, which has been an online entity since it lost its FM signal nine months ago, will return to the airwaves next spring.
Friends of mvyradio, the nonprofit behind the radio station, announced Thursday morning that it will acquire 88.7, a local FM signal. The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2014.
Barbara Dacey, a longtime deejay and the station’s director of worldwide programming, announced the news on the air just after 10 a.m. Thursday morning.
“You just want to have this cathartic primal scream because it’s such good news,” production director and morning host Laurel Redington said. “We are gonna be back in the FM, on 88.7, in the springtime of 2014.”
“It’s something we’ve been hoping for a year, and that’s how long Friends of mvyradio — some of our board members — have been working to make this a reality,” Ms. Dacey said.
WMVY was on the air for nearly 30 years when its 92.7 FM frequency was sold about a year ago to WBUR, a National Public Radio station based at Boston University. In February, the deal went through and WMVY went off the air.
But the radio station, beloved by seasonal and year-round residents for its eclectic music and local news (including broadcasting ferry information and football games), started a massive fundraising effort to continue as an online presence. The nonprofit Friends of mvyradio raised $600,000 in 60 days through pledges from listeners. Donations came in from 15 countries and all 50 states.
National and local musicians, including Bonnie Raitt and Carly Simon, made fundraising pleas.
Now a noncommercial, nonprofit public radio station, WMVY remained committed to returning to the dial.
“It’s something that we’ve been working on for awhile,” program director PJ Finn told the Gazette Thursday. “I wasn’t ready to believe it until the papers were signed.”
Mr. Finn said that deal was made official late Wednesday and the staff was told shortly after. “We’re all very happy,” he said.
“We’re radio people,” Mr. Finn said. “Being on the FM on the radio is something that was important to us and, I think, important to the community.”
The 88.7 FM frequency has been on the radar from the beginning. The frequency was owned by Dennis Jackson, operating as Vineyard Public Radio Inc. Mr. Jackson is a seasonal resident who said he wanted to broadcast American standards and big band music over the noncommerical station. His station transmitter was on the Oak Bluffs water tower, though the radio station, called WMEX, is not currently broadcasting.
“We were going to put on this wonderful, at least to people of a certain age, music station,” Mr. Jackson told the Gazette Thursday, saying he had planned to play music by artists like Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble.
But when WMVY’s signal was sold, he said the public outpouring was huge and unexpected. “I don’t think anyone anticipated it would be so missed,” he said.
He said he has been in discussions with WMVY about selling his signal since January. “We just thought that it would be the best thing for the Vineyard,” he said. Mr. Jackson said he will help the station get a transmitter on their tower.
“This was the only frequency that would fit on the Vineyard,” he said, noting that the dial is crowded.
“I hope that WMVY will do the kind of local programming they once made their name on the Vineyard for,” he added.
Mr. Finn said that is the plan.
“I think people will be wondering if programming will be the same as ever,” Mr. Finn said. The answer, he said is yes, except for the absence of commercials. There were all the same programs and all the same deejays.
WMVY hopes to put their transmitter on the tower at their Vineyard Haven station. The station would have to buy an FM transmitter, he said, an investment that is in the six digits.
“Because Dennis is not on the air we don’t know exactly how far [the signal will go],” Mr. Finn said. “We don’t want to promise anything until we’re on the air.”
“In theory, it will cover the entire Island no problem,” he said. “And maybe parts of the Cape, like Falmouth.”
The transfer of the station will take several months. Vineyard Public Radio has to get the license renewed first, Mr. Finn said, which will happen sometime around February 2014. At that point, the station can file for a transfer, which is subject to Federal Communications Commission approval. The transfer will likely take about 60 days.
Mr. Finn said Friends of mvyradio will be mounting a capital campaign in the coming months to raise money for costs associated with the signal and to update equipment. A board of directors is being assembled.
The station might also fill a couple of positions, he said, including finding a development director.
Fundraising will “certainly include an on-air component,” he said. They will also look for major donors and endowments.
The station also needs to continue to raise money for its $600,000 yearly operational budget. This will consist of three major areas, Mr. Finn said beginning with listener contributions and large donations.
A new element is underwriting, Mr. Finn said. Before, a large part of WMVY’s budget came from commercials. When the station went online and became noncommercial, some advertisers converted to underwriting, “but because we were not an FM station only a handful of Island businesses really stuck with us,” he said. He said this support might increase when back on the airwaves.
At the staff meeting Wednesday night, Mr. Finn said something struck him for the first time: “In this whole year the on-air staff has stayed,” he said. “In other places . . . it would not be in the least bit surprising for people to jump ship, head for greener pastures.”