The board of directors of the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network, which holds the license for MAIN-FM, voted Sept. 23 to cease broadcasting unless a $3,500 monthly operating deficit is covered by listener donations and local business sponsors. Federal law prohibits nonprofit stations from airing commercials, but sponsorship announcements — called “underwriting” — are permitted.
Since the Sept. 23 board vote, station volunteers, staff, and program hosts have been developing and implementing the “Save Our Sound” campaign, which culminates with the Oct. 25-30 on-air fund drive.
MAIN-FM is the only radio station in Western North Carolina broadcasting progressive news and public affairs programming covering politics, the environment, health and wellness, Latino and Native American issues, arts and culture, and spirituality. The station also broadcasts music shows not available on local commercial radio, including the Putumayo World Music Hour and the locally produced Drop Beats, Not Bombs.
The station airs two nationally syndicated daily news shows — Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News — plus the Thom Hartmann Program, the nation's number one progressive talk show, according to Talkers Magazine..
Though MAIN-FM is licensed to broadcast at 100 watts, restrictive federal regulations pushed by the commercial broadcast lobby have limited the station's signal to 2 watts since it went on the air in 2003, said Wally Bowen, MAIN's founder and executive director.
“The good news is that pending legislation should soon remove these restrictions, and with the stroke of the president's pen, we will be able to increase our power to a full 100 watts,” Bowen said.
The Local Community Radio Act cleared the U.S. House of Representatives by voice-vote last December. The power increase would enable listeners to hear MAIN-FM throughout most of Asheville and Buncombe County and into Madison and Henderson counties, he said.
Bowen said the SOS campaign is asking listeners and local businesses for three- to six-month commitments to “show the board that the community appreciates and supports the kind of programming that can only be heard on MAIN-FM.”
He also urged local nonprofit organizations to help keep MAIN-FM on the air. “No local media has covered issues such as mountaintop removal like our radio station has over the years. If MAIN-FM is silenced, many progressive advocacy groups will be too," said Bowen.
With an eventual signal increase, the station will quickly become self-supporting, Bowen predicted. Since the station's inception, it has been subsidized by revenue from MAIN's Internet access and Web hosting services, he said.
The MAIN board's next scheduled meeting is Nov. 3. For more information about MAIN-FM's “Save Our Sound” campaign, call 828-258-0085 or visit www.main-fm.org.
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