More than a week after radio station WMVY sold its signal to a Boston public radio station, Friends of MVY was busy fundraising to keep the station going as a nonprofit, as it continued to look into acquiring a new FM signal.
One potential signal could come from a newly-licensed Island-based startup owned by Dennis Jackson, a seasonal resident. But it isn’t clear that Mr. Jackson is willing to give up his signal.
Last week public radio station WBUR announced it would purchase the WMVY signal, a move aimed at expanding its presence in the south coast and Cape and Islands region. The news led to an emotional outpouring from devoted WMVY listeners.
Parties did not disclose the sale price for the signal, but it is reported to be $715,000, according to Northeast Radio Watch, an industry blog.
WMVY, owned by Aritaur Communications, had struggled with financial problems in recent years.
Aritaur president Joe Gallagher is helping MVY with the plan to become a nonprofit, non-commercial entity that will continue with online streaming and hopefully also on the airwaves.
As of Thursday, WMVY had raised $163,000 in pledge money toward its goal of raising $600,000 by the end of January. The $600,000 would cover one year of operating costs to produce the radio format as it is now heard on the air.
The Vineyard Haven building that houses the WMVY studio is owned by Comcast, Mr. Gallagher said, and an arrangement with that company affords the station “a very attractive opportunity to be able to stay there and continue to operate.”
“With this plan, the idea is nothing really changes,” Mr. Gallagher said. Those listening to the station on their smart phones “would not notice any real difference. Local news, Steamship reports, MVY music, Barbara, PJ, Jess and Laurel.”
Mr. Gallagher said Friends of MVY aims to create a local board of about nine to 12 people, consisting of some major donors, community members and artists.
Mr. Gallagher also said MVY is actively exploring options for acquiring an FM signal. Ideally, he said the station would have a new signal before WBUR takes over the signal at 92.7. That is expected to happen sometime early next year.
He confirmed that one option for a signal includes 88.7, a new noncommercial station started by Mr. Jackson, a Connecticut resident who lives seasonally in Oak Bluffs. Mr. Gallagher said he has been in talks with Mr. Jackson.
”That door hasn’t closed. The conversation is ongoing. I hope that we’re close. I think Dennis is the only one who can answer that — how close we are,” he said. “There are some details in just the broadcasting of that signal that need to be ironed out. All very possible to do, but it does need some figuring.”
Mr. Jackson had a different view.
“We don’t really want to sell it,” he said of the signal. “We have no plans to do anything,” he told the Gazette in a telephone interview Thursday.
Mr. Jackson, who said he has been coming to the Vineyard in the summer for 25 years, said he thought the Island needed a station that played American Standards and Big Band music, modeled after a popular station on the Cape.
In 2007, he applied to the Federal Communications Commission for a permit, and got the go-ahead to build this fall, though he has yet to receive a license from the FCC. The station transmitter is on the Oak Bluffs water tower on a month-to-month lease. Mr. Jackson said his plan is to get his new station going in the spring. “People seem to love this idea,” he said. Mr. Jackson’s station would be all volunteer.
But at the same time, he said, “it’s hard not to take note of the great vacuum left when MVY becomes a public radio station.” He stressed that he hasn’t figured anything out with the MVY backers but said there is a possibility the station could broadcast on 88.7.
“There’s a certain opportunity there that sort of presents itself,” he said.
He said his planned station has an older audience than MVY, listeners who can’t find Big Band music elsewhere on the dial.
But at the same time, he said, “We know we don’t have to play the same music 24 hours a day.” He said there could be a way to do podcasts, or play recordings of bands playing at the Pit Stop.
Mr. Gallagher said money to pay for an FM signal would be raised through a capital campaign, Mr. Gallagher said, which might be something that could be done over time, making the fundraising drive not much more than the $600,000 now needed to keep the station going.
“We could find a way to handle it,” he said of an FM signal purchase. “There’s probably a way that any stumbling blocks can be overcome.”
“It may require some creativity,” he added, and there could potentially be a period that the station is not on the air.
But Mr. Jackson remained noncommittal about working with WMVY.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “There’d have to be something specific to look at.”