Davyne Dial has something to say and she’s well worth hearing. Here’s what she says about running a listener-supported community radio station:
“It’s a great way to spend your retirement. You’re going to learn a lot, you’re going to meet a lot of people you wouldn’t have met otherwise, you’re going to be contributing to the community…it’s a very enjoyable thing to do. It’s fun!”
Like anybody could do it, right? Not everyone can, truth be told, but Davyne’s point is that there are a lot of licenses like her’s out there in this country that could be put to use like she uses hers. In service to the community, the way public airwaves were originally intended to be used – for the public benefit. What a concept! Maybe more people should try it.
And there are plenty of people who can put their hard-earned assets to any number of uses in their retirement. You can horde it or spend it on toys, buy yourself a Maserati or a nice sail boat to park in your driveway. But who cares?
Why not do what she’s done? Why not create a platform for the creative people in your community, one that prioritizes art and culture over commerce? Why not create a voice that speaks to what is best in your town instead of just what sells?
“There are a number of community stations around the country that would most likely appreciate and benefit from folks of our era contributing … in any way,” she says. “That might be the place to make a difference.” Her point is you don’t have to own one to contribute, but if you have the resources, with a modest amount of money and a helluva lot of work you can build a station as creative and meaningful as WPVM.
There’s no shortage of radio stations that are focused on grinding out the dollars, but there are too damned few that create that sense of place, that broadcast nothing but what makes your community unique, what is special and why it matters. That’s what Davyne Dial does.
Davyne is President of the Board and General Manager of WPVM-FM radio in Asheville, North Carolina. She and her husband retired there after successful careers elsewhere. Hers was in the arts, so gravitating to a very hip little town where art and culture are paramount was a logical choice. Nothing unexpected there.
What was a surprise, though, was to suddenly find herself in radio. “It was a total fluke,” she says. “I would never have imagined I’d end up in the position that I’m in. I didn’t know I have media genes, I just intuitively felt it would be good for the community. It didn’t take long, though, to understand the powers that be didn’t want independent media in town.
“I began live streaming political forums, town halls, community events, board meetings, and the more I dove into that activity the more I realized there needed to be far more oversight in the community than there was at the time.”
The local independent station was floundering financially and was preparing to turn its license back to the F.C.C. The local bank was ready to repossess some of the station’s broadcasting equipment. In 2014, Davyne put together a non-profit board, bought the station, and over the course of the next few years during “a steep learning curve,” she turned WPVM into one of the premiere examples in the country of true community radio.
“Our unofficial title here is ‘no bullshit radio.’ It’s got to be fun for the people doing the radio, making the content. What I try to do is give them a great environment to come in to. I don’t tell them what to do with their show, but there is a threshold to reach. They need to be consistent, authentic, be yourself, have fun, do your show. That’s the platform I’ve provided for our show hosts.
“Our goal is to continue building a foundation of good volunteers that have a good show, build the listenership, and be a station that puts out good programming. Radio has been treated like a beautiful child that’s been put out into the world to be a prostitute, to get all the money they can out of it, like it’s a cash cow for most commercial station owners.”
Instead, at WPVM “It’s an entirely different concept …to think of it as a platform for the local community to share their culture and their art. Twenty-five percent of our programming is national shows about current events, the rest is local and regional music, the musicians bringing it in, local people bringing in whatever creative events are happening in the community.
“We’re non-commercial, non-corporate, and we’re not under the thumb of any organization. I don’t have the exact number of stations like ours, but those of us who are independent are trying to reflect the culture of the community, but also the culture of the country. We have 12 million people coming to Asheville each year as tourists. They coming in part because of the unique vibe of the city so it’s obviously something people enjoy.
“What I’ve come to realize is the people who do programming for the station as volunteers are the most special people on the face of the earth, because they are giving you something that you can’t get anywhere else. We’re honored they choose to share their content, their lives, their energy with us. My job is to make sure we hold on to the license and provide them a platform to come and do it.”
Video interview with Davyne Dial here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/9810988?page=4
World of Radio video here: https://www.radicalradio.media/the-history-of-radio
WPVM-FM here: http://www.wpvmfm.org/