FCC Approves New Portland LGBTQ and News/Music FM Micro-Stations

Wild Planet Radio and Portland Radio Project Plan to split shifts on 99.1 FM.

Portland may be getting a new citywide FM radio station this summer. In fact, it may be getting two of them.

Both Wild Planet Radio (LGBTQ community radio) and Portland Radio Project (noncommercial music-and-news) plan to broadcast at 99.1 FM from a radio tower leased from Benson Polytechnic High School. The 100-watt signal should cover most of the city of Portland, say Bobby Harsell and Thomas Elisondo of WPR.

This news comes as new community station XRAY.FM just began broadcasting from its 10-watt tower at 91.1 FM, starting Saturday, March 15.

The Federal Communications Commission approved the WPR and PRP stations’ low-power FM applications in mid-March, say station organizers, after a Texas-based “educational broadcaster” bowed out of its claim on the bandwidth in January. 

Each station plans to broadcast over the air for 12 hours of the day. Portland Radio Project would be on the air from 3 am until 3 pm, which includes morning drivetime. Wild Planet Radio would be on air from 3 pm until 3 am. 

Both are currently operational as web radio stations, but applied for low-power licenses when the FCC briefly opened a window for small nonprofit broadcasters in October 2013. 

"They'll be more journalism, we'll be more community-based," says WPR's Elisondo. Wild Planet Radio is based at the Q Center LGBTQ community center, and will air community-awareness programming, news, and personal stories, alongside weekly shows by local writers. "We really want to create an open platform that's safe for everyone," says Elisondo. 

Recent WPR podcasts include shows by Raina and Rabbit about gaydar and LGBT athletes in sports, a show about grief after trauma on Andi Radio, an interview with the owner of Aardvark Tattoo ink shop by True with Drew, and a show about "consomme, broth and other souptacular food stuffs" from food podcast Talking With Our Mouths Full.

Portland Radio Project will air news headlines and special news features within a music format that includes local and popular music. "We're a music based, noncommercial station," says Project Radio director Rebecca Webb. "Our theory is that if you remove news from music stations, it's anti-democratic, that leaves you with information haves and have-nots. People who don't listen to OPB are left out."

Even though there's been a massive demographic shift toward online radio, Webb says, online radio does not provide the same sense of community. "The beauty of radio," says Webb, "is the local quality. That was diminished with the concentration of ownership that began in the 1990s. Media companies got bigger and bigger, and local artists are rarely played. We're all about fixing that." 

Both stations are trying to gather resources and get organized. "This has all happened so fast," says Webb. "We haven't figured out a roadmap. [The FCC license] was granted right away. All of it's been a series of happy surprises." Webb says they were trying to create profit streams even before applying for a broadcast license.

Wild Planet Radio started an Indiegogo campaign toward buying their own tower and transmitter before receiving FCC approval, but it raised just $355 so far. To help raise funds, they're holding a spring break party at Trio Club on Tuesday, March 25, at 3-8 pm.

"We're also applying for grants, and getting scholarship plans together," says Elisondo. "If you know anybody who's sitting on a whole bunch of money they'd like to part with, let us know."

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