There are so few open frequencies for new full-power noncommercial radio stations in the US, so it’s all the more exciting to learn that the great folks at free103point9 have received a license from the FCC to start a 3,300 watt FM station in New York’s Hudson Valley.
free103point9 is an amazing group that promotes transmission arts, located at the intersection of music, experimental sound construction and radio. Over the last 10 years they’ve maintained an online presence with a live audio stream, while catalyzing the creation of new sonic arts through programs like the residency program at their Wave Lab on 30 acres in upstate New York. free103point9 also sponsors performances and concerts, releasing many of these recordings through their Dispatch series.
I’m so jazzed about free103point9’s FM license because it promises to be a station that is dedicated to and a participant in the creation of art, sound and music, not just merely playing existing recordings on air. With 168 hours a week to fill, I’m sure that the station also will be playing recorded music, along with important news and public affairs show. But the connection of an FM station to a non-profit group already engaged in the production and promotion of sonic art is both new and promising.
Indeed, I think that the sonic and transmission arts represent a fruitful new frontier for radio as the medium transcends being just a music jukebox (no matter how eclectic). Now, this sort of artistic experimentation has happened on community, college, public and even commercial radio stations for decades, but rarely has taken center stage — Public radio’s This American Life arguably is the best known example of a radio program that breaks out of the typical confines of radio genre and format. However, more often programs that truly play and experiment with sound and transmission are relegated to overnight hours and not often long-lived.
I also think it’s great that free103point9 started life as a microbroadcasting collective, that turned into an internet broadcaster, and is now bridging to the airwaves. Each medium has unique constraints, advantages and audiences and the future vitality of radio will rest on the fruitful use and bridging of multiple methods like these.
I’m scheduling Tom Roe, Program Director of free103point9, to be on the radioshow in the next few weeks. I’ve wanted to feature more transmission and sonic arts on the radioshow, but the move to Chicago this year and limits on my time and energy have kept this idea on the back burner. But hearing about free103point9’s license gives me motivation to re-engage with it.