For the inaugural issue of Weld, we asked dozens of people from throughout the community — young and not-so-young; male and female; black, white, Hispanic and Asian; Christian, Muslim, Jewish and agnostic; students, professionals, artists and more — to each give us one idea for making Birmingham better. This is one of those ideas. You can read more here.
Keith Harrelson • Proprietor of Moonlight on the Mountain
There are about 30 licensed radio stations crowding the AM and FM dial in Birmingham and they are a fairly diverse lot — by their own descriptions, three of them are devoted to news/talk, two adhere to a country-music format, four play classic/alt/soft rock and three others spin oldies. There’s a sports station, a Spanish station, two low-power college frequencies and one publicly supported NPR entity. The remaining 13 are religious/gospel.
What I miss is community radio. I mean the kind that has a wide variety of programming, changing hour by hour, in the course of a single day — jazz, blues, folk, roots, juke, ’30s, ’40s, local — with arcane, intriguing, unique playlists compiled by self-styled experts you can call on the phone, during the show even, to comment on the music or request something special.
With a format like this, listeners get to hear real voices, the DJ’s and their own — immediate, whimsical, unpredictable — instead of the same two dozen songs in perpetual rotation, piped in from corporate headquarters seven states away.
Like our local publications or our family-owned restaurants, we need radio that’s completely indigenous and reflective of THIS place where we live. And it should be a ground-bound, come-off-a-tower, car-dashboard signal, something every citizen can enjoy by simply twisting a dial and turning up the volume.
In a hundred other media markets, larger and smaller than ours, stations of this sort are a keystone element in the personality and identity of their commonwealth. We could have community radio, too — with very little expense, almost with the flip of a switch.
Surely, it would be immediately embraced and supported by the public, and independent businesses, from every part of the metro area.
I continue to hope that one far-sighted area broadcaster will soon volunteer to bring the music to the party and invite everyone in.
As we wrestle with the bigger challenges and changes forced on us by the New Economy, we need to know we can always break away for an hour, to hear something new, to dance together to our own chosen rhythms and whistle our own tunes.
Read more Big Ideas to Make Birmingham Better here.