When Little Raleigh Radio’s on-air sign glowed red for the first time a few weeks ago, station founders Kelly Reid and Jacob Downey knew they had made it.
After years of planning, they had officially launched a community radio station.
“People got to listen, which is one of the most exciting moments we’ve had,” said Reid, who, like Downey, was once a disc jockey at N.C. State’s WKNC 88.1 FM.
The station’s mission is to offer music and news programs produced by locals for the Raleigh community. Already, listeners can tune in to shows featuring everything from heavy metal and contemporary classical to museum exhibits and beer.
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For now, the station is streaming online from a studio off St. Marys Street, but Reid and Downey hope to secure a home on the FM dial – 106.5 – as well.
They’ve applied to the Federal Communications Commission to create a low-power FM station that would have a broadcast radius of several miles. The station is one of several groups vying for the spot.
But they’re not slowing down while they await the agency’s response.
With a team of 60 volunteers working on-air and behind the scenes, Little Raleigh Radio streams live content from about 4 to 8 p.m. or later, every day of the week. (News & Observer reporter Colin Campbell is among the on-air volunteers.)
If they win FCC approval, Downey hopes to be broadcasting live 12 hours each day by the time they’re able to put up their antennae and transmitter.
One of the advantages of community radio is that the station isn’t scrambling to make money or to keep up with the latest trends, Downey said. The DJs are free to experiment and to adapt as their listeners’ needs change.
“I like that we get to be a laboratory for new ideas,” he said.
Little Raleigh Radio DJ Eric Blakeslee said the chance to try new ideas and involve community members as both hosts and guests on the station is part of what got him hooked.
“No one is locked in,” he said. “We’re all listening, we’re all receptive.”
Blakeslee, another former WKNC DJ, co-hosts “The Mixtape” on Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m. with Christina Sykes. He said he’s thrilled to be back in the studio crafting a radio program.
“It allows you to step out of the normalcy of your life and do something different,” he said.
Reid and Downey said it will be up to the DJs which direction the station goes. But they’re proud to have helped built something from the ground up.
“It’s the beginning.” she said. “We’re growing, and we’re excited about how we’re going to grow.”