Takoma Radio gets frequency

PHOTO: Markia Partidge, WOWD-LP director (at center), and supporters selling Takoma Radio t-shirts at last year’s Takoma Street Festival.

March 13, 2015, Takoma Park, MD  Historic Takoma Incorporated announced today that the Federal Communications Commission approved a community radio station for Takoma Park and surrounding neighborhoods. By summer 2016, “Takoma Radio” will broadcast as WOWD-LP on 94.3FM, programming music, stories, interviews, history, happenings, and other expressions of local life.

Low Power, or LPFM, is regular FM radio with a small reach, and here, there are approximately 100,000 potential listeners in a 2-5 mile radius of the antenna site in Takoma Park. HTI president Diana Kohn says, “For us, the word ‘local’ means urban neighborhoods in Northwest and Northeast DC, as well as in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Radio captures a moment in time, it captures a story. Historic Takoma collects and preserves stories. Radio is a natural for us.”

Heading up the project is Marika Partridge, whose broadcast career began at KTOO-FM in Juneau, Alaska in 1976. In Sitka, Alaska, in 1982, she put KCAW-FM in Sitka on the air.  She came to Washington DC in 1985 and spent 16 years at National Public Radio as a director, producer, and engineer. Now an independent producer, Partridge’s pieces are heard nationally and internationally. She moved to Takoma Park in 1987, bringing her passion for collecting local audio.

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Another key radio adviser is Charlie Pilzer, owner of Airshow, a music mastering studio in Takoma Park. Pilzer, who was at the first meeting of Takoma Radio in 2011, is currently expanding his facility on Westmoreland Avenue and is incorporating a storefront on-air studio for Takoma Radio.

At two public meetings at Historic Takoma in 2014, opinions about local radio were collected. Cited as missing are local music, sports, gardening and seasonal shows, live events and festivals, and under-represented stories and voices, and including the very old, the very young, and the very different.

According to Partridge, real-time community broadcasting is revolutionary, especially in the digital age. “You can’t time-shift radio.  When we listen together at the same time, we grow together. Our community is unique, international, and without a broadcast voice. Listeners will know this station is theirs because it will sound different – inclusive and non-commercial. Our call letters are WOWD, and I believe the community is going to be wowed!”

The Takoma Foundation has funded engineering studies and recording equipment for Takoma Radio. Says Partridge, “We’ve raised funds with events, T-shirts, donations and grants, and now we’re moving forward quickly with crowd funding and grant writing. We’re a non-profit. We welcome donations of any size. Money is what we need now to be broadcasting by 2016.”