Media coordinator Will Nimmow: “People saw the potential.”
Whether it’s a Sunday morning broadcast from the farmers’ market with Mayor Bob Miller, a weekly polka show, a Friday night play-by-play of the Monona Grove High School football game or a comedy show produced by homeless individuals, Monona’s new radio station is providing programming not available elsewhere on the dial.
After a lengthy wait for a license from the Federal Communications Commission, the 100-watt station 98.7 FM-WVMO, nicknamed “The Voice of Monona,” launched in July. It is headquartered inside Monona’s City Hall and equipped with top-of-the-line equipment purchased with fees assessed to cable users. The station’s signal spans a seven-mile radius.
Nearly 50 volunteers have been involved in programming, and Tom Teuber, formerly of 105.5 WMMM-FM, is serving as the program director. The station has gotten help from other local radio veterans: Monona native Paul Meyer, an engineer with Wisconsin Public Radio, and former radio executive and consultant Lindsay Wood Davis.
“We had no idea when we started doing it for real how the community would respond or if any volunteers would show up,” Teuber says. “We were really pleased with the turnout for our first community meeting. Lots of people came with good ideas.”
Volunteers are broadcasting more than 16 programs, featuring a mix of live and prerecorded content, including shows on LGBT issues, jazz, Hmong culture, fitness, science and social issues.
Media coordinator Will Nimmow, the station’s only paid staff member, says providing information to the community is at the heart of the WVMO’s mission.
“At first, some in the community thought, ‘A radio station? What the heck is Monona getting a radio station for?’” Nimmow says. “I think once it got going and we’re on the air, people saw the potential.”
The station does not yet have enough volunteers to broadcast live 24 hours a day. But it fills the gaps with Americana music, a genre not typically broadcast by commercial stations.
Teuber says he hopes the station will feature more storytelling, and he wants to increase news coverage and provide a forum for community debate. He says there are development issues in Monona — including a proposed riverfront project — that always provoke “lengthy discussion.”
“We’d like to have that discussion take place on the radio,” he says.
Who’s listening? “I have no idea if there are 10 people or a hundred or a thousand people listening, but the initial response has been really positive,” Teuber says. “We got a note from the police chief the other day in Monona and he said, ‘We program your station to be the hold music on the phone system.’ That was really nice. We didn’t have to ask for that.”