East Side lands community radio signal

Community members could be making waves in mere months -- radio waves, that is.

Though it’s just in its infancy, a new low-powered FM radio signal for the East Side looks to be a community asset in the making.

The signal, 104.7 FM, will reach most of the East Side.

Carla Riehle, a Dayton’s Bluff resident, spearheaded the effort to get the signal -- the Federal Communications Commission had an application process, releasing around 1,000 frequencies throughout the US.

Riehle said it’s been over 10 years since the opportunity to get a low-powered radio signal presented itself.

Applications for the low-powered FM frequencies came up back in 2013, and the process of actually getting a permit for a signal took awhile, Riehle said.

“It was a little complicated, but we’re just really thrilled that it happened.”

A retired attorney, Riehle said her background in law made it easier to navigate the application process.

Looking for funds

Riehle and a group of radio enthusiasts are now working to secure funding to get the station up and running -- they’re applying for two $10,000 grants to get broadcast equipment. They’re seeking city STAR funds as well as a grant from the Bush Foundation.

If all goes well they’ll have a studio operational, possibly at the Dayton’s Bluff Community Center. They’ll likely mount a broadcast antenna on top of the 180 Degrees building at the corner of Johnson Parkway and East Seventh Street.

An East Side resource

While there’s a lot to be sorted out, the organizers of the station are already beginning to dream big.

Deanna Foster, director of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, said the council would be working hard “to get a good cross-section of the whole community” involved in the station.

This could mean programs in Hmong, Spanish, Somali and other languages, and a variety of content catered to make sure the wide swath of voices on the East Side are heard.

Though the station is being pursued and organized in part by the Dayton’s Bluff community Council, Riehle said the goal will be for the station to represent the entire East Side.

“We see it as an East Side thing,” she said. “The East Side needs to have its voice heard.”

“When you’re a new immigrant, for instance, where do you get to hear your language spoken?” she wondered aloud. The station could be “a big useful tool in communities that are poor and struggling to be in touch with each other,” she said.

A community planning meeting to discuss how to use the station will take place Tuesday, April 15 at 6 p.m. at the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council building, 798 E. Seventh St.

Programming ideas

John Slade, a board member at KFAI, a community radio station broadcasting in Minneapolis and St. Paul, joined up with the East Side station organizers to help out with applying for grants.

A Dayton’s Bluff resident, he said he hopes to see the station represent the diverse voices of the East Side -- “kids, communities of color, low-income people ... don’t get well represented in larger mainstream media,” he said.

In terms of specific programming, he said there was already chatter about what kind of shows could air. For instance, the East Side Area Business Association has expressed interest in doing a show profiling small businesses. Business owners would come in, and talk about the struggles they’ve gone through to keep their businesses open, and how they’ve found success.

Another concept, Slade said, is to have a show called East Side Equity Radio, which would tie into the Fostering East Side Transit Conversations group, which advocates for East Siders on transit issues.

Riehle, Slade and other organizers are also talking to Metro State University to coordinate with the school for possible programming.

Marcus Mayo, a resident who serves on the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, said he was excited about the station’s potential.

In particular, he said he was hoping to advocate for a show about workers’ rights and equity. Dayton’s Bluff is a working-class community, he explained, and he’d hope to bring a workers’ perspective to the station.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.


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