Radio station WMVY, the popular Vineyard station that was endangered after its owners sold its FM signal, will live on through online streaming after having reached its fundraising goal last week.
The station’s fundraising effort, which drew support from listeners around the world, was completed just in time: WMVY’s 92.7 FM call signal will be transferred to WBUR, a Boston-based National Public Radio station, in about a week.
WBUR purchased the signal, which was for sale, in November. Kristen Holgerson, director of marketing and promotions for WBUR, told the Gazette Thursday that they are still working out when the switch over will happen, but it is expected to take place Feb. 8 or early Feb. 9.
At that time, 92.7 FM will become WBUA Tisbury, and it will begin airing WBUR’s programming. Its NPR programs include On Point, Here and Now and Only A Game.
The weekend will be a time of transition for both stations as WMVY will transfer to an online station, thanks to its $600,000 in pledges.
Director of worldwide programming Barbara Dacey and deejay Alison Hammond announced the achievement on the air at about 4:20 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, highlighting the 3,715 pledges received. Ms. Hammond started crying, and the station played Barry Manilow’s song Looks Like We Made It.
“It was very, very happy and we’re very thankful to all the people that made it possible,” Ms. Dacey told the Gazette that afternoon.
The date marked 59 days since the time WBUR purchased WMVY’s 92.7 signal and the station, a fixture on the Vineyard for 30 years, launched a fun
draising effort to stay on-air: $600,000 in 60 days. WMVY’s owner, Aritaur Communications, had been looking for a buyer, and sold the signal for a reported $715,000. WMVY continues to search for a new FM signal so that it can continue on the airwaves in addition to online streaming and a smart phone application. Pledges will fund station operation, including salaries, programming and administrative costs for a year so the station can continue as an online presence, operated by the nonprofit organization Friends of MVY. The station will continue to operate with the same staff, the same programming and the same location on Caroll’s Way in Vineyard Haven.
Aritaur president Joe Gallagher, who has been helping the station with the transition, told the Gazette this week there will be a formal transfer of station assets from Aritaur to the non-profit Friends of MVY. The next step will be to assemble a board to guide the station. There’s also a plan in place to convert MVY from selling commercials to airing underwriting credits as it becomes a nonprofit station.
The station will look into being supported by donations, underwriting, grants and foundations, he said.
Additionally, “we continue to search for the opportunities that may exist in terms of being able to find an FM signal,” Mr. Gallagher said, adding that the station is considering and looking at all possibilities.
But otherwise, the station “will continue to operate as it has over the last 30 years,” Mr. Gallagher said. “It’s not as if we’re starting something new.”
The fundraising effort got off to a quick start and never lost momentum, fueled by pleas from national and local musicians to save the station. Singer Carly Simon took out a full-page ad in the Gazette on the station’s behalf, and Bonnie Raitt recorded an interview about how much the station means to her and other musicians. The campaign attracted national press coverage in the New York Times.
The fundraising effort showed the station’s wide appeal: donations came in from 15 countries and, as of Thursday night, all 50 states. (North Dakota was the remaining holdout; Ryan from Fargo corrected that with a pledge.)
The pledge drive has confirmed that the station has a vital role in listeners’ lives, general manager Greg Orcutt told the Gazette.
“It’s been a very nice experience,” he said. “You don’t always get a chance to find out how much people appreciate you.”
This week it was back to normal at the station, with the usual mix of eclectic music and local news.
“Everyone is very excited and very relieved,” said program director PJ Finn.
The station celebrated Saturday with the 25th annual Big Chili Contest, a popular competition that is a fundraiser for the Red Stocking Fund. This year, the event raised about $36,000 for the fund.
While this year was as celebratory as always, with about 2,800 people gathered at the Portuguese American Club and people filling Island hotels and restaurants before and after the event, it was extra special for the staff, Mr. Finn said. “We did talk to a ton of people who were just so excited for us,” he said. “We received a lot of hugs.”