Mike ’n’ Molly’s to host second WRFU Tower Benefit

Saturday May 16, Mike ’n’ Molly’s will be hosting a second benefit show for local community radio station 104.5FM WRFU. The first, which saw a packed house at the Cowboy Monkey on a freezing December night, raised nearly $1,000, all of which will go to the construction of a new permanent tower to replace the station’s current temporary one. The benefit on Saturday will run from late afternoon at 5:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. and will feature a wide variety of some of CU’s finest local music, art and poetry. Members of the station are hoping to raise the remaining money necessary for the tower project, as well as spread information about the community radio cause.
And what is the cause, you might ask? Community radio stations such as WRFU are non-commercial, listener-supported radio stations that promote the use of radio for all members of the community, whether they are activists, underrepresented citizens or just people who want to play weird, experimental music on the air.
“One of our goals is to allow any member of the public to have their own radio show if they so wish,” said Andrew O’Baoill, station manager and community radio participant for 15 years.
WRFU is licensed by the FCC as a low-power FM station, or LPFM, and the differences between these stations and what you can regularly tune into are many. For one thing, LPFM content essentially has to be local because regulations only allow the stations to broadcast within a roughly three-mile radius. The stations also promote diversity because they cannot be consolidated. In other words, a corporation cannot own more than one LPFM station. Costs of running the station are also quite low. O’Baoill explained that running a low-power, 100-watt signal such as the one at WRFU amounts to about $1 to $2 a week in electricity fees. Also, obtaining a license for a LPFM station is free. All told, WRFU runs on the unbelievably small budget of $3,000 a year.
“It’s something that’s growing, but there is a need for change so that there can be more,” said O’Baoill of the community radio movement. “There are hundreds of small stations like these scattered throughout the country.”
Some of WRFU’s programming includes news bulletins in four languages, daily public affairs reporting, spoken poetry, an experimental sound art program entitled “Radio: Edit” and lots of local music. During empty or unscheduled hours, the station runs an automated system that plays only local music and rotates among 40 to 50 artists. The station’s current tower is about 60 feet high and can reach listeners as far as Prospect Avenue in Champaign. The new 100-foot tower, which will likely be constructed this summer, will allow the station to broadcast deeper into West Champaign. Also, listeners with weaker receivers in the area will be able to get clearer reception.
“We’re very optimistic; it’s nice sunny weather, and Mike ’n’ Molly’s’ beer garden is such a nice place to hang out on a nice evening,” O’Baoill said. “We hope to get the word out about the station and hang out with people who care about local music and care about the radio station.”
The second WRFU tower benefit show runs from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Mike ’n’ Molly’s, and cover is $4.

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