After a decade of trying to get on the air, a community radio station outside Austin – with a range of about 10 miles – finally got its broadcast license from the Federal Communications Commission last month.
There’s a sign taped to the door of a plain storefront in a shopping center in the little town of Wimberley. In bold green and black it reads “Wimberley Valley Radio.”
DuAnne Redus is eager to show off the new space for KWVH. Starting the station hasn’t been easy, she says. Redus is one of a team of volunteers who raised about $100,000 to launch Wimberley Valley Radio.
“This station has been trying to be born for at least 10 years,” she says. “There have been several groups in town who had the idea to have a community radio station.”
But, until recently, the FCC wasn’t giving out any licenses at the time, so efforts petered out--until a rash of wildfires hit Central Texas in 2011.
“Our own ability to communicate quickly in case of a fire or any other kind of emergency became really crystal clear,” says Wimberley resident Susan Raybuck, who led the charge to organize the station. She formed a non-profit and, when the FCC started issuing licenses in 2013, she applied.
Before they could get one, devastating flooding hit Wimberley last spring.
Still, the radio team got a temporary license to broadcast in the wake of those Memorial Day floods.
“There were instant things that needed to be told, you know — where to go for help, where to get food, medical supplies and attention,” Raybuck says.
People communicated on Facebook, but for some there was no Internet, no electricity at all.
“The city council at the time was putting out a flyer and having a runner take it from house to house to house. Things kept changing; the weekly newspaper couldn’t keep up with the task, and so we took that role,” she says.
The volunteers set up a recording tent inside the echo-y storefront and started broadcasting.
In the weeks after the flooding they did interviews with FEMA officials and shared tips to help victims get compensation and start rebuilding their lives.
Now, with things going back to normal, Wimberley Valley Radio has a different challenge.
“One of most critical parts of it is obviously for emergencies,” says Mike Crusham, the station’s programming director. “But you’re a 24-7 radio station, let's pray we have no emergencies, what are we doing the rest of the time?”
So far, he’s helped create around 9 hours of original programming per week.
“There’s just so many characters, there’s storytellers in this town that, since this is their radio station, we’re going to figure out how to get them involved,” he says. Crusham’s sure more locals will join in, but at a nearby café, few people had heard of the station.
“We were hoping there was a local radio station,” says Wimberley resident Vicki Adare, who lost her home during the flood. “Where were they during the flood?”
When told the station began broadcasting after the flood, and that it only just recently obtained a full license, she welcomes the prospect as “good news.”
Sylvia Hatton and her husband just moved to Wimberley.
“We’re figuring out, as newbies to the Wimberley area, that weather might be something we need to know about here,” Hatton says.
She says radio seems like the perfect way to get that information, except for one thing.
“I don’t have a radio right now,” she says, adding that the new station might prompt her to get one.