Our FCC licensed low power radio station began broadcasting in the Orchard Ridge neighborhood of southwest Madison in late September of 2008, and at its full 100 watts of power in April 2009. The transmitter and broadcast computer were located in the garage of Bob and Barb Park's residence at 5610 Hammersley Road, near Whitney Way. During the day the broadcast antenna could be seen above their garage roof, and after dark a string of lights shaped to display the station's broadcast frequency, 99.1 FM, could be seen lit up under the eve by their garage door. This noncommercial volunteer operated station could be heard on car radios at distances of up to several miles from the transmitter location, and in homes within a mile or so of the transmitter on FM radios equipped with antennas. (One listener on the south end of Whitney Way in Fitchburg could not get the station at first, but after putting up her antenna wire said the station came in "loud and clear".)
In 2001 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accepted applications for Low Power FM (LPFM) radio stations around the country. According to the LPFM rules as mandated by congress and implemented by the FCC the central Madison area had only one available frequency. Seven organizations applied for this frequency. These organizations fell into two groups, nonprofit organizations and Christian church organizations. In order to facilitate cooperation among these groups, the nonprofits and Christian organizations formed representative groups. The Christian organizations formed the group called SoulWIDE Radio and the nonprofits formed CityWIDE Radio, Inc. All of the original applicants requested that the FCC allow these two organizations to share the single frequency by dividing the broadcast day between the two groups. All but one of the applicants withdrew their construction permit applications and the one remaining organization, Health Writers Inc., while being recognized by the FCC as owner of the station, delegated actual operation of the station to the two organizations.
The two organizations also created a daughter organization, Madison Mainstream Radio (MMR), to own and operate the transmitter and antenna. This organization did not create any of the programs broadcast by the station but limited itself to tasks and responsibilities for the station as a whole. The board of MMR was nominated by the two parent organizations (doing business as CityWIDE and SoulWIDE) and the funding for MMR came from the two parent organizations.
Final approval to begin broadcasting came from the FCC at the beginning of October in 2007, but transmitter equipment still needed to be purchased or borrowed. We used rented equipment for a 2 week period of test broadcasting from a house on Gregory St. in west Madison in late Oct. 2007. FCC regulations limited potential locations for our transmitter and broadcast antenna to a narrow north and south corridor through west Madison because of the distance we must maintain from full power stations using the same or a nearby frequency in Milwaukee and Dodgeville . Two possible antenna locations that looked promising at first did not pan out. Faced with an FCC deadline for starting regular broadcasting under the 2007 approval, we decided to go with the Orchard Ridge location. By May of 2008 we had obtained a backup power supply to allow us to stay on the air during brief power outages, an FCC required unit enabling the broadcasting of messages sent via the emergency broadcast system, and some borrowed or donated second hand equipment that we hoped would allow us to start broadcasting from the Park garage. However, equipment difficulties delayed the actual start of regular 24/7 broadcasting until September 2008, and the equipment we began using then only allowed us to broadcast at about 50 watts of effective radiated power (ERP). Photos have been posted of some of the efforts leading up to the initiation of broadcasting from Hammersley Road. The purchase of a refurbished transmitter on ebay and the loan of another piece of equipment from the student radio station on campus finally enabled us to reach our allowed limit of 100 watts ERP in April 2009.
What we broadcast
The station had no studio and no live programming. Live announcements could be made from a microphone atop the equipment rack in the garage, but normally everything that went out over the air was controlled by the broadcast computer, which was just an ordinary desktop pc. An Internet connection allowed programming changes to be done remotely. The air time was divided 50/50 between CityWIDE and SoulWIDE, with SoulWIDE's time running from 10 pm to 10 am during the week and CityWIDE's time running from 10 am to 10 pm. The weekends were divided differently, with CityWIDE having a 36 hour block of time from 10 am on Friday until 10 pm on Saturday, and SoulWIDE having the 36 hours from 10 pm Saturday until 10 am Monday. SoulWIDE broadcast music from a Christian perspective, and CityWIDE broadcast a mix of music and talk programming. The CityWIDE website at http://citywidelpfm.org linked both to the SoulWIDE website and to a WIDE Schedule page that showed the weekly broadcast schedule for the station as a whole. Much more detail about the CityWIDE talk programming was available through the page reached via the Talk Shows link. All the talk shows were listed there, and for those half and hour or more long the links led to tables giving the topics of past and future programs, and the links in the tables allowed listening to the programs online.
The goals of CityWIDE Radio were to provide information not readily available elsewhere on the radio dial and to respond to the needs and interests of listeners in the neighborhoods where we were heard. Neighborhood News at Noon made time available each Saturday for news and events specific to southwest Madison, and there were opportunities for local volunteers to get involved in programming decisions, etc., through the CityWIDE Radio Council. Station volunteers can be reached through the Contact Us link in the left column of the website (now at http://widelp.org/) or through the phone numbers or email addresses given in the right column of the website.
Though music on SoulWIDE's broadcast was lyrically consistent with a Christian worldview, it was not a conventional Christian Contemporary music mix. SoulWIDE played a wide range of genres and emphasized local and independent artists, though not to the exclusion of artists on major labels. SoulWIDE did not broadcast any talk shows.
In the News
CityWIDE Radio was featured in the Nov. 18, 2011 cover story on community radio in the Isthmus news weekly. The story is available online here and the cover here. A correction was published on p. 4 of the Dec. 2 issue giving the correct times when SoulWIDE is on the air. In addition, the first contribution under Letters on that page pointed out the subtitle error on the Nov. 18 cover, where "low-frequency" should have been "low-power". The full email requesting corrections was as follows:
The most serious error in last week's cover story about community radio was in the following sentence just above the last heading:
"With a few exceptions, an entity known as soulWIDE plays Christian music from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., followed by 12 hours of public affairs and specialty programming."
WIDE-LP would appreciate it if Isthmus would print a correction and clarification. SoulWIDE's Christian music airs from 10 pm to 10 am weekdays, not the other way around. The weekend schedule is different. Our station operates as a partnership between CityWIDE Radio and SoulWIDE Radio, and each partner get half of the air time each week. On the weekend CityWIDE gets a 36 hour block of time from 10 am Friday morning until 10 pm Saturday night, and SoulWIDE gets the 36 hour block of time from 10 pm Saturday night until 10 am Monday morning. SoulWIDE programs only music and CityWIDE programs a mix of music and talk shows. The weekly schedule is shown online at http://madisonwi.us/WIDE-LP/schedule/index.htm.
The cover also erred in the subtitle. It should have been "low-power radio", not "low-frequency radio".
Two other errors are worth noting. The statement that there is "programming on Tibetan monks" was incorrect. There had never been any such programming on the station. The free lance reporter apparently misunderstood mention of attendance at early Radio Council meetings by representatives of the Tibetan refugee community in Madison, followed by webcasting of some programs they did on the Internet for a time, independent of WIDE. Finally, while one of the partners involved in running the station is "religion based", the other partner has never been "an organization of atheists". The other partner, operating under the name CityWIDE Radio, has been a coaliton of secular nonprofit community groups.
Changes in 2015
On July 30 WIDE-LP went off the air and our tower of pipe sections was transferred to the site where Madison Christian LPFM Radio (the station partner which had been doing business as SoulWIDE) was setting up their new station, WALK-LP. They went on the air there on 8/11/15. On 8/27/15 the FCC approved the relocation of WIDE-LP to Orchard Drive in the Midvale Heights Neighborhood in west Madison. Because of the planned height for our broadcast antenna there the FCC required us to reduce our effective radiated power to 40 watts. On 8/30/15 Health Writers elected a new board of LPFM supporters and began preparing to operate WIDE-LP 24/7 at the new location starting in October. Antenna installation was completed on 10/6 and broadcasting commenced on 10/10/15. A map of our projected range after relocation is available here.
On Nov. 3, 2016 local community LPFM stations met at Isom House on the First Unitarian Society campus and agreed to associate as Low Power Community Radio of Greater Madison and publish a joint quarterly newsletter, starting in January 2017. Our joint website at http://lpfm.madisonwi.us/ was updated with the new name. The first issue of the newsletter actually came out on February 13, World Radio Day, and is available here.
On Nov. 13, 2016 we held the final meeting of Madison Mainstream Radio (MMR) as the the umbrella organization for Madison Nonprofit LPFM Radio (CityWIDE) and Madison Christian LPFM Radio (SoulWIDE). At that meeting MMR was turned over to us to serve as sole owner and license holder for WIDE-LP. The meeting minutes are available here. Those and subsequent MMR meeting minutes are linked to from The New Madison Mainstream Radio page. Since transfer of ownership from Health Writers to MMR required FCC approval, we agreed to keep Health Writers in existence until our application for transfer of ownership was granted, and then to dissolve Health Writers. Eric applied to the FCC for the transfer of ownership on 2/17/17, and the FCC granted the transfer on 4/5/17, subject to our submission of documentation of consumation of ownership transfer within 90 days.
At the beginning of 2017 we adopted a new slogan for our website, replacing "Neighbor Radio" with "Progressive Voices on the Air." We stopped using the name CityWIDE Radio and dropped the citywidelpfm.org domain. On May 1, with only a few hundred dollars left in the MMR account, we began our first fund drive for the station.