Radio station WMVY, the popular independent local station that has been on the air on the Vineyard for nearly three decades, will sell its broadcast signal 92.7 FM to WBUR, the well-known National Public Radio station in Boston.
WBUR announced the purchase on its website and in a press release early Tuesday morning. The sale is still subject to Federal Communications Commission approval and is expected to be completed in early 2013, the release said. Terms of the sale have not been disclosed. But WBUR hopes to use the signal to expand its presence on the Cape and Islands and south coast area. “We believe that the Islands, Cape Cod and south coast are important parts of the community we cover and serve,” said WBUR general manager Charlie Kravetz in the release. “WBUR has long wanted to meet demand from listeners in this region.”
WMVY plans to change over to a nonprofit, online enterprise if it can raise enough money. A pledge drive to raise $600,000 by the end of January was announced on the MVY website this morning. "This is real. We must evolve. Or face extinction," the announcement said.
WMVY’s owner Joe Gallagher, who is president of Aritaur Communications, will transfer programming and all other assets to the station’s nonprofit arm Friends of mvyradio. “The goal is to continue broadcasting mvyradio’s unique music programming through its online, live streaming . . . and look for a more affordable solution to return to the FM airwaves,” Mr. Gallagher said in the press release. “The mission of Friends of mvyradio in the next 60 days will be to raise enough pledges from listeners and fans of the nearly 30-year-old independent radio station to sustain mvyradio’s programming and staff and find a solution to continue its broadcasting operations.”
WMVY was a pioneer in online streaming and enjoys a worldwide audience.
“We hope our devoted listeners, and the residents and businesses of Martha’s Vineyard will respond and help us continue the ground-breaking digital streaming programming which has become mvyradio’s mainstay while we search for an affordable FM home,” Mr. Gallagher said in the release. “Our ambitious goal is for mvyradio to evolve into a fully listener-supported streaming music channel and broadcast our programming on a new FM commercial-free signal. It’s an ideal scenario which will require significant fund-raising, but we’re committed to making it happen.”
WMVY first began broadcasting 29 years ago and is known for its friendly on-air presence and eclectic community programming. Weekly music shows have ranged from Peter Simon’s Private Collection to regular spots focusing on the Grateful Dead, Beatles, blues, Sunday morning jazz and world music. Barbara Dacey, the longtime deejay and director of music and programming who got her start at the station doing ad voice work more than 25 years ago, has interviewed dozens of musical artists on the air through the years from Judy Collins to Carly Simon to John Mayer. “We had to be a Vineyard and a community radio station. How could we be here and not do it? It’s a responsibility we’ve felt from the beginning,” Ms. Dacey said in a 2008 Gazette interview on the station’s 25th anniversary.
The station went on the air on May 1, 1981, broadcasting from 92.7 FM and taking over the tower and small station behind Carroll’s Trucking in Vineyard Haven that had previously been used in the 1970s for WVOI, the Island’s first radio station that was financially unsuccessful and later folded.
“It was just a leap of faith, I think. Everything was reels then; everything had to be cued by hand,” recalled Ms. Dacey, who joined the station two years after it started. The station upgraded to digital equipment in 1999. The station began streaming live in 1997, a year before Mr. Gallagher bought the station. In the days when internet radio was a relatively new idea, the station quickly gained followers all over the world, boasting 100,000 online listeners in addition to the 30,000 regular on-air listeners.
The station has changed hands twice since its inception. In 1990 Broadcast Properties Inc. of Minnesota, whose principals were Charles Burns, Jim Binger and Phil Kelly, bought the station from founding owners Robert and Linda Forrester for $2.5 million. In 1998 Mr. Gallagher and his Aritaur Communications bought WMVY from Broadcast Properties for $1 million following the death of Mr. Kelly, who had been the operating partner in the business and the only owner with radio experience.
The station has been active in a wide array community affairs and fundraisers through the years, and among other things sponsors the annual Big Chili Contest in late January, a benefit for the Red Stocking Fund.
Founded in 1950 at Boston University as a student-run station, WBUR became a National Public Radio member station in the 1970s. Its NPR programs include On Point, Here and Now and Only A Game. The station also produces hourly local newscasts, a daily news magazine program, Radio Boston, and carries other NPR news programs.
The station today is all news and talk shows although at one time it included music in its programming. It has a fierce rivalry with NPR station WGBH in Boston.