The blend of high-profile radio personalities, nationally-known engineers and enthusiastic community volunteers at Monona’s brand-new radio station, WVMO 98.7 FM, make the small station situated in the heart of the small town’s City Hall ripe for a reality television show.
(Or perhaps a podcast would be more apt.)
The station, which is being supported by well-known media personalities like Tom Teuber, former program director at 105.5 Triple M, and Lindsay Wood Davis, a 40-year radio industry veteran, and about 50 volunteers, began broadcasting a mix of local programming and Americana music in July.
“A lot of low-power FM radio stations are under-resourced,” said Davis. “We are incredibly lucky and incredibly unusual.”
Some of the station’s programs include “Down Home Dairyland,” a polka and beer-centric show with host Rick Marsh, who recently published a book entitled, “Polka Heartland: Why the Midwest Loves to Polka.”
Other shows include “School of Phish,” which streams archived live shows from the jam band Phish, “The Book & The Spade,” which discusses the latest discoveries and developments in biblical archaeology and “Nature Nerds,” a show hosted by a mother-daughter duo that features ride-alongs with local wildlife rescuers and answers to “burning backyard questions.”
Monona Mayor Bob Miller recently heard a particularly moving episode of “Big C — The Homeless Comic Show,” a program produced by homeless residents of the area. He listened attentively while driving home one evening, he said, only to turn his car around in the driveway upon arrival to trek to the station and meet the on-air personalities in person.
“It was so enlightening,” Miller said. “I was so proud that the city I live in could have this kind of conversation. That’s what it’s all about.”
The station recently received its full licensing from the FCC, a nearly nine-year process.
Davis said the lengthy wait for licensing is part of what made the station so successful out of the gate — organizers have had years to cultivate volunteers and gather resources.
“We had a chance to coalesce,” he said. “We always knew it would happen.”
But there’s still room for improvement. Hosts remind listeners on air that the station is still in its infancy.
“We’re a baby and will occasionally spit up on ourselves,” Davis said.
Station volunteers are looking forward to organizing radio play this holiday season, a version of “A Christmas Carol.”
Davis has already planned out the cast. Some of whom “don’t even know they’re going to be in it yet.”
The station also plans to broadcast more local sports live, and to continue to cultivate its public safety resource portfolio, perfecting how it will handle covering incidents like snow emergencies and flooding.
Station volunteers see WVMO as a great resource in the event of a local emergency incident.
A TV station wouldn’t interrupt coverage for flooding reports, Davis said, “but WVMO will.”
Media coordinator Will Nimmow, who has been working on the WVMO roll-out for the past year and half, said he wants to make sure the station is as relevant to the community as classic, staple resources like the library or community center.
With similar goals, Sun Prairie also recently launched a community radio station, 103.5 “The Sun.”
(Sun Prairie joined Monona in being one of the lucky few across the country who recently received a sought-after low-power FM license from the FCC.)
“We’re definitely filling out our schedule is good local programming,” said Jeff Robbins, executive director of the Sun Prairie Media Center. “The next step is to shout it from the hilltops.”
The station currently has about 11 volunteers, he said.
Volunteers from The Voice of Monona and The Sun have been in touch, Robbins said.
They have both also tapped into the expertise and resources of some of the more established stations in Madison, like WSUM and WORT, sharing tips and tools of the trade.
All share a common goal: uniting communities around the airwaves.
“The radio station can be the hub of the community wheel,” Davis said.