Drawing of a woman with a bullhorn

Calling itself Columbus’ Green Renaissance Network, Saturday April 23, marked the “Earth Day BirthDay” of Columbus’ newest Low Power FM Radio station, WGRN-LP 94.1. Victoria Parks, volunteer programmer for WGRN, answered some questions for the Free Press giving us the skinny on WGRN:

FP: Where can our community tune-in to WGRN-LP and what is Low Power FM radio?

VP: We occupy 94.1 on the FM dial in Columbus with a strong signal that reaches the Greater Columbus metropolitan area. Low Power FM came about through a tenacious grassroots effort for local control over community airwaves in 2000 when the FCC began granting LPFM licenses. This was followed by ten years of expensive lobbying in opposition to LPFM by commercial media interests that wanted to restrict LP licensing opportunities. Then, the passage in 2011 of the Local Community Radio Act enabled the FCC to start granting new LPFM licenses. LPFM licenses are generally granted to schools, churches, community organizations and other long-term non-profits. Low Power FM provides community an information resource it would not otherwise benefit from with commercial media alone. LPFM radio empowers disenfranchised community otherwise economically excluded from Internet access.

FP: Who holds the WGRN-LP license and why?

VP: WGRN-LP is women and environment-focused, volunteer-driven, non-profit, community radio which is licensed to the Central Ohio Green Education Fund (501c3) and affiliated with the Pacifica Radio Network. WGRN-LP is a Project of COGEF, whose mission is to promote the Ten Key Green Values, which are based on the Four Core Principles of ECOLOGICAL WISDOM, SOCIAL JUSTICE, GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY, and NONVIOLENCE.

Among COGEF’s Ten Key Green Values is FEMINISM AND GENDER EQUITY as core to WGRN’s mission. Also included in COGEF’s Ten Key Values are those of DECENTRALIZATION, COMMUNITY-BASED ECONOMICS AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE, RESPECT FOR DIVERSITY (including bio-diversity), PERSONAL AND GLOBAL RESPONSIBILITY and FUTURE FOCUS AND SUSTAINABILITY. All these values align with, and determine the programming content of, WGRN.
  It is no surprise that we think of our own planet as female. We refer to her as Mother Earth. She represents the sacred feminine archetype, a Mother Goddess. She sustains us. It is highly synchronistic that WGRN should launch on Earth Day week, it’s Earth Day Birthday. WGRN’s content reflects our sense of responsibility to sustain ecosystems and community. This is why WGRN focuses on the environment as well as women. When we destroy the planet, we destroy that which nurtures us, we destroy community, we destroy ourselves. Likewise, a culture that destroys its women, destroys it children, destroys itself. Some call this “ism” eco-feminism but that term is limiting. WGRN’s mission is so much bigger than that word can express. With the advent of severe climate change, everybody has skin in this game and when we go down, we’ll go down together.

FP: How was WGRN conceived?

VP: It must be said that WGRN is the brainchild of several people, including men. WGRN was conceived actually, by a man who envisioned WGRN enfranchising an under-served Columbus audience, a frightening percentage of whom are neglected, abused and impoverished women and children. Media is mandated the responsibility to serve community interest. Information is power. WGRN’s initial vision was to be an information resource for the demographic of women who do not receive fair representation in commercial media. They are by default put into a powerless position in society, especially those without Internet access. WGRN seeks to remedy this with our terrestrial signal. We plan on streaming as well, but not until we get the funding.

FP: What is the difference between commercial and non-commercial radio?

Commercial radio is profit-driven selling advertising to stay on the air. Non-commercial, or non-profit community radio relies on grants, individual member donations, and underwriting. With WGRN’s non-profit model we treat women differently than in commercial radio. In commercial media, we see women talked about, but not to, “upskirted,” narrowly represented, misrepresented or not represented at all. Male-dominated, commercial media tends to objectify women because of its commercial nature.

  Because media is male dominated, women find themselves projected upon by male expectation, and this is the accepted norm. The male voice is not underrepresented in commercial media. That being said, women do not have access like their male counterparts over control of the airwaves (see The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2015, a report published by the Women’s Media Center). The sensational nature of commercial media and its pandering to stereotypes unfairly projects on women. WGRN’s noncommercial approach wants to bring balance and realism into how women are represented in media. Also, women are too often caught between economic circumstances and the needs of family while their own needs go unmet and remain unrecognized. Women become invisible, marginalized as a result, because they do not receive a fair opportunity to represent themselves. From the grassroots, noncommercial perspective, it can seem we live in society unconcerned for the hard issues women face daily.

  Women are weary of being viewed through the lens of those who write history, while herstory is ignored. WGRN’s non-profit model serves women realistically with content that improves quality of life, with relevant news and public affairs and life-enriching music and arts programming geared to them.

  According to COGEF’s Ten Key Green Values, the health of our environment is intrinsically tied to the health of women and community. WGRN’s news and public affairs content addresses many environmental crises, especially climate change. Uplifting music and arts programming will include folk, jazz, blues, ambient and spoken word. Our offerings include great Pacifica programming like Radio Ecoshock, TUC Radio, Radio Curious, the Women’s International News Gathering Service, The Bluegrass Review and many more.

  WGRN plans on engaging local women with opportunity to speak for themselves on local radio, by and for women and our environment here in Central Ohio. We will provide locally originated content from Central Ohio’s mothers, wives, grandmothers, professionals, academics, students, of every status in society, of every gender identity and sexual preference; women who possess remarkable skills, and who have deep personal stories and wisdom to share with our community. We seek to develop talented young women volunteers in WGRN’s evolution as community radio, of course, but not to the exclusion of young talented men. Nothing great is ever achieved by yourself, unless you are Mother Teresa. There is no doubt though that she too, had a lot of help.

  Do not let it be said that WGRN is exclusive to women. We naturally rely on the support of our male colleagues to improve all aspects of community life. We would not function well as community if we did not. We include men enthusiastically as producers of our program content as long as content aligns with our mission. Just as a bird cannot fly with one wing, neither can WGRN bring community together without the participation of men. Sure, we feature great woman-hosted news programming, like our flagship Pacifica Network program, Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. But we also feature wonderful male hosts as in the Thom Hartmann Program, featuring Thom Hartmann, who in my view, is a great feminist.

  We do not apologize for that “f” word. We love it. Women, as well as insightful men, sew the fabric of a healthy community together. We do not need to qualify, equivocate or apologize for declaring that we are by and for women. WGRN seeks balance. A radio station like WGRN is exactly what our community and our media landscape needs in Columbus now. Women will love WGRN, but men and children will too. We are inclusive but we do not apologize for addressing women’s needs, and the need for social justice for everyone, as core to our reason for being.

FP: How does WGRN fund itself?

VP: To date, WGRN funds itself on a wing and a prayer through volunteer resources, human and otherwise; by the grace of a few individual donors, small businesses, and by organizations like Comfest, to whom we are so grateful for two separate grants to date. Every sum really helps. The start-up costs can seem insurmountable. Prometheus Radio Project, an organization that supports LPFM start-ups, estimates LPFM start-up costs can range from $28K to $40K. So far, organization grants from Community Shares and Comfest, have made it possible to get us as far as we have. We plan on exploring other ways to sustain ourselves through underwriting and membership development. We are also using crowd source funding as another means to cover our start-up costs. If anyone reading this would like to help WGRN, they can donate to our GoFundMe site through our website at wgrn.og or they can write a check directly to the Central Ohio Green Education Fund 12 E. Duncan St. Columbus, OH 43202. Donations can always be made through our facebook page at WGRN LP FM 94.1.
  Let’s not forget our greatest resource, the contributors to WGRN’s relevant content—the community. We seek local volunteer producers and programmers, engineers, website managers, operations managers. social media developers. We also plan on creating internship programs in collaboration with local academic institutions. In this way WGRN can play a vital role in the development of young female talent in news and public affairs, or music and arts content production and broadcast engineering. Over time, the community will tell us who we need to become. It is WGRN’s best hope to grow organically according to the needs of our Columbus community. To get involved, contact us at comments@WGRN.org.

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