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Delgado, WHIV Plan New FM Radio Stations in New Orleans



Community and college radio are set to get a boost in New Orleans, as two new stations are slated to join the local FM lineup later this year. Delgado Community College and the New Orleans Society for Infectious Disease Awareness [NOSIDA] are both currently raising funds to construct two separate low-watt FM radio stations in the Crescent City.

 

The Federal Communications Commission [FCC] awarded the two groups construction permits back in March. It's the first time in 13 years that the FCC has awarded licenses to run 100 watt, non-profit stations. The new stations should begin broadcasting near the end of 2014.

 

For Faculty Instructor and Delgado's Dolphin Radio Advisor Bob Dunn, the construction phase comes after months of hard work gathering the required materials for the FCC permit application. Dunn worked meticulously during the summer before the application window opened in October, 2013, only to be delayed briefly by the government shutdown. 

 

"The big hurdle is getting the construction permit, and that's where we are now," Dunn says. 

 

Delgado had broadcast at a tenth of a watt for a time on 1610AM, and currently broadcasts in FM inside its student life center and over dolphinradio.org.  However, their new 100 watt station broadcasting under call letters WDXR-LP at 98.9 will allow them to reach all of their campuses and most of the greater New Orleans area.

 

For Delgado student Jeremy Johnson, who currently hosts the "I'm Just Saying" talk/music program on Delgado Radio, the new FM station represents a chance to find an audience beyond internet streaming. 

 

"I think you're going to have a greater opportunity for people to catch you by happenstance than on purpose," Johnson says. Dunn intends to change the programming somewhat when broadcasting over 98.9 begins. "It will be more like traditional college radio," he says.

 

The new Delgado radio station "will be an educational tool" that will serve the school's mission to engage and be a part of the greater New Orleans community, said Dr. Stanton McNeely, Vice-Chancellor in Delgado's Office of Institutional Advancement. The new station also has symbolic value, McNeely said. 

 

"This campus, the City Park campus, is in a phase of transformation," he said, adding that Delgado wants to give each of its eight campuses a separate identity, with City Park's "more along the lines of media."  

 

"The opportunity with multiple programs, including this initiative, is to get a hands-on learning in a way that they're going to continue do in the field or enhance their skills," he said. Both McNeely and Dunn said a new FM station can also raise awareness about Delgado opportunities, including its long-established programs in radio and TV broadcasting. 

 

Mission, with Music

Raising awareness is also the aim of WHIV's programming. For Dr. MarkAlain Dery, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Tulane, the FCC construction permit offers a chance to spread information to the community about the importance of testing and prevention of infectious disease transmission, particularly HIV.  New Orleans currently ranks third in the nation in HIV infection, just behind Baton Rouge. "Awareness is key, and getting tested is key" to reduce transmitting HIV, Dery said.

 

To spread the word about testing and prevention of HIV and other serious infectious diseases like Hepatitis C, Dr. Dery co-founded the New Orleans Society for Infectious Disease Awareness (NOSIDA).  Dr. Dery listens to radio and Internet podcasts "five to six hours a day," and became interested in NOSIDA owning a low-watt FM station.  "By a fluke of luck, I found Bob Dunn, and this whole thing could not have been done without Bob Dunn."  Dunn helped NOSIDA with the application process, and even called Dr. Dery to ask him what call letters he wanted for his new station.  

 

Dr. Dery had only one choice for his station's name, which will broadcast at FM 102.3.  "I'm an HIV doctor. I got to name the station. I called it WHIV," he said.  Dr. Dery makes clear that WHIV,  officially named Radio Nola HIV Programming Dedicated to Human Rights and Social Justice, will have diverse, local programming. "So it's not going to sit and be something that is geared towards HIV 24/7.  Not at all," he insists.  Dery envisions talk radio programming during the day with music predominating nights, weekends and holidays. While health and safety will be a key part of the programming, NOSIDA board member and local entertainment attorney William Ramsey says WHIV will have "our local talented musicians as one of our focuses. We want to offer them a platform to perform their music."

 

So why call the new station at 102.3 WHIV then?  Dr. Dery responds, "If I can I get WHIV to be said day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, I see that of being my way, our way, NOSIDA's way of being able to help decrease the stigma associated with HIV."  Both Dr. Dery and William Ramsey believe the stigma around HIV has a negative impact on people getting tested, leading to new infections.  The stigma surrounding the disease adds to the pain and stress of patients already coping with having to battle a life-threatening illness. "There's this large social aspect that surrounds HIV that you don't normally think about it," says Ramsey.  "Who addresses the ostracism, the stigma?"

 

Dr. Dery says currently 1.2 million Americans have HIV, and  20 percent of those infected don't know that they have the virus. He states those 20 percent are responsible for 60-80% of all transmissions.  Those high numbers have NOSIDA promoting HIV testing with their annual HIV Awareness Music Project [HAMP].  During HAMP, local bands play, and then demonstrate the ease and speed of HIV testing.  NOSIDA wants to be on the air December 1, 2014, so they can broadcast this year's HAMP on December 5th.  The new station will also do internet streaming and record programs as podcasts.

 

Delgado and Bob Dunn also hope to be broadcasting about that time.  "The challenge, of course, is that this stuff costs money and it's not cheap,"  Dunn says. Delgado Radio wants to raise $7000 to $8000 to get on the air, and the overall cost of having a station that can program call-in radio shows will be near $20,000 overall. Delgado's student government has promised assistance and Dunn has launched a grassroots fund-raising effort, which eventually will include an Indie-go-go campaign. 

 

"We have raised about $1300 in the last week and a half or so just on Facebook and Twitter," says Dunn.

 

Meanwhile NOSIDA exceeded their fundraising goals last week during an event at the Maple Leaf.  The high number of HIV infections in the New Orleans area has created a high level of awareness and motivation to stop the spread of the disease locally, says Dery and Ramsey, giving them a broad base of support.  Right now, NOSIDA is in the process of purchasing their antenna and other broadcasting equipment. 

 

"I could theoretically put a signal to the air next week if we wanted to," says Dr. Dery. WHIV's broadcasting antenna will sit on top of Tulane Towers at Tulane and Broad, just diagonal from the Orleans Parish courthouse. NOSIDA next plans to find a physical location for WHIV's station.

 

Both Dr. Dery and Bob Dunn spoke of their respective stations "giving a voice to the voiceless."  Once WHIV is up and running, Dr. Dery hopes to find young people who are interested in creating programs for the various communities that make up New Orleans.

 

He'd like to create a mentorship program that trains young people and encourage them into continuing their training by enrolling in programs like Delgado's.  

 

For Delgado, the new station is just the latest technology the school has adopted in its quest to offer the people of New Orleans the education and skills needed to live and work here.  As Delgado's Director Public Relations and Marketing Tony Cook observed,  "Communication has been taught here for all the 93 years that the college has been in existence."  Cook observes that Delgado's commercial art students have images still seen all over the city decades after their creation, saying "We've been at it for quite a long time." 

 

To find out more about Delgado Radio, visit dolphinradio.org.  Too support or learn about Radio Nola HIV Programming Dedicated to Human Rights and Social Justice, see whivfm.org.

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

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