MARTHA’S VINEYARD – WMVY, the eclectic music radio station that somehow seemed to sound like the island of Martha’s Vineyard, is coming back to FM radio at a new place on the dial, 88.7.
It is expected to be on the air in late March or early April, said P.J. Finn, program director of the now non-commercial WMVY.
The signal at the new location, said Finn, “will cover the Vineyard and probably cover Falmouth. It definitely won’t have the range the old 92.7 did. You won’t be able to get it in Brewster.”
The station had been broadcasting for 30 years on 92.7 as a commercial station playing Adult Album Alternative, known in the radio industry as triple-A, format, said Finn. In February, the station’s then-owner, Aritaur Communications of Rhode Island, sold the signal to a Boston public radio station, WBUR, he said..
“It was tough, a real challenge,” said Barbara Dacey, director of worldwide programming for WMVY. Dacey is also a longtime on-air deejay and a member of the board of directors of Friends of MVY, the nonprofit group behind the transition of the station from a commercial station to a non-commercial station.
After 30 years, said Finn, there was real sadness going off the air at 92.7. “At the same time, we didn’t have the time to be too sad about it. We knew we would continue to live to fight for another day. We were working to save our behinds. We were focused on something we really believed in.”
The non profit, Friends of MVY had started when the station was still on the air as a way to get the station an Internet presence, said Finn. In addition, WMVY is still on FM radio in Newport on 96.5. While the station went off the air from a Vineyard-based FM signal, the station still exists.
“We still refer to ourselves as a radio station,” said Finn.
When the Vineyard FM signal disappeared, a fund-raising effort was launched with an initial goal of getting enough money to fund operations for 2013. In 60 days, Friends of MVY raised $600,000, said Finn.
“We were not surprised, and surprised at the same time,” said Dacey.
The station operated on the Internet and from the Rhode Island signal, while continuing to raise money in search of a new Martha’s Vineyard signal, he said.
“I was amazed that everybody kept such a positive attitude,” said Dacey. “It crystallized everything that MVY was all about,” she said. Dacey described that “everything” as “a mystery soup. It’s a great recipe.”
Dacey called the music the station plays, “Rock and roll, singer-songwriters, blues-based rock, actual blues, the Americana format, roots music, and new groups coming in those formats.”
Of the experience, she remarked, “You don’t often actually get a chance in life to do something where it’s all on the line. When we got a couple of big donors we were, whoa, this is actually going to happen.”
Friends of MVY is buying the 88.7 signal from Vineyard Public radio, which has done “sporadic broadcasting,” said Finn. All stations must go for seasonal license renewals from the FCC, he said. If 88.7 gets the expected renewal in February, the license will be transferred to Friends of MVY to go on the air in late March or April, he said.
There is currently no tower or signal power, so the strength of signal will depend “on the power and height” of the transmitter, said Finn. Neither have been determined, although it is clear the signal will be less powerful than the old 92.7 signal.
Still, it will be on FM radio, not just the computer.
“Even though I’ve been coming to work every day and the staff has been doing the same work every day, for many people it’s as if we don’t exist any more,” said Finn. An FM presence on Martha’s Vineyard will change that perception, he said.
The station itself with its eclectic mix of music that somehow exuded a sense of place will remain the same, said Finn.
“There are so many songs, signature styles, a combination of old and new,” explained Dacey, of the station’s approach. “The old songs give context to the new music and the new songs give context to the old music. You can see where it’s all going, where it could go.”
“Everything will be the same as before,” said Finn. “The same staff, the same programming, but instead of 12 minutes of commercial per hour, there will be brief announcements about underwriters, and quarterly fundraisers.”
— Brian Tarcy