A new public radio station five years in the making is on its way to the East End.
The Federal Communications Commission granted Hamptons Community Radio (HCR) Corporation permission last month to start a new non-commercial radio station in East Hampton Town, and it could be on air as soon as March.
The corporation, started in 2003 by a group of local residents and former radio professionals, also has applications pending with the FCC for radio signals in Westhampton and Hampton Bays. The station will be financially supported by government and corporate grants, foundations, national underwriters and individuals, said Barbara Barri of North Sea, the president of HCR’s board of directors.
The 3,800-watt East Hampton signal will broadcast on 90.7 FM from either East Hampton or Montauk, said Ms. Barri. Now that the FCC has approved the signal, she said HCR’s next step is to find a home for its studio, which doesn’t need to be in the same place as the broadcast antenna.
Ms. Barri said that, ideally, HCR will share space with a non-profit organization, because part of HCR’s mission is to bolster local non-profits.
“We can help the other non-profits in the area get the publicity they need, help them with everything, I hope,” Ms. Barri said.
The new station, under the call letters WEER, for East End Radio, will be on air for nine hours each weekday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the entire day on Saturdays, Ms. Barri said.
HCR agreed to share 90.7 FM with Noyac’s Community Bible Church, which will have its own studio and antenna, in order to expedite FCC approval, she said. The church will use the 90.7 FM signal overnight on weekdays and all day Sunday.
“It was either settle with them for this signal, or the signal would have been lost forever to Connecticut,” Ms. Barri said.
While many Connecticut non-commercial stations reach the East End, HCR will be the only locally-produced public radio station on the South Fork besides WLIU 88.3 FM. WLIU’s studios are located on the Stony Brook Southampton campus, but the station’s lease with Stony Brook University expires in October 2009.
WPKM 88.7 FM recently announced that it is opening a studio in Springs. Currently, WPKM relays a Connecticut station’s signal, WPKN 89.5 FM. With the new studio, East Enders will be able to record shows and broadcast live on the non-commercial station without taking a ferry to WPKN’s studios at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.
Ms. Barri said Connecticut non-commercial stations that reach Long Island see the East End as a “cash cow,” so they opposed WEER’s FCC license.
WEER can also offer local traffic updates, unlike Connecticut stations, and it will be accessible to local government agencies in the case of emergencies, such as a hurricane, Ms. Barri said.
HCR’s planned programming for WEER will be unlike any other local station, whether it is commercial or public, she claimed.
“I’m targeting us baby boomers,” Ms. Barri said, explaining that she plans on a mix of rock, Motown and country music. “The Eagles, next to Earth, Wind & Fire, next to Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, next to the Doobie Brothers,” she said.
Though on the radio waves for only nine hours on weekdays, WEER will also stream 24 hours a day on hamptonscommunityradio.org, Ms. Barri noted.
Pastor Doug Kinney of Community Bible Church said the FCC gave the church three years to get on air, and he does not plan on getting on air as soon as WEER. In the meantime, WEER is welcome to use the church’s airtime, he said.
Ms. Barri said she expects the FCC will approve a second signal for HCR in Westhampton next year. The signal will not be shared with any other group and will be on air 24 hours a day, she said.
Once HCR has two signals, it will cover the entire South Fork, and possibly reach the North Fork, Ms. Barri said. The reach of the signals will not be known until the antennas start broadcasting, she said.
Ms. Barri noted that HCR will not need to build radio towers. Instead, HCR will rent space on existing infrastructure.
Initially, WEER’s programming will be a mix of music and community announcements, Ms. Barri said. “When we go 24 hours, the gloves are off,” she added.
HCR’s long-term plans call for talk radio in the evenings after 7 p.m., Ms. Barri said, and she also said she anticipates broadcasting National Public Radio programming.
Ms. Barri will host WEER’s midday show. She is a North Sea native who got her start in radio in Florida after graduating from Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, where she studied drama and voice and speech. She went on to be a disc jockey in Los Angeles before returning to North Sea about 9 years ago.
Another veteran broadcaster, Matt Stutterheim of Springs, will host WEER’s “Afternoon Drive,” Ms. Barri said. Mr. Sturrerheim is also the HCR board of directors chairman.