Milestone for WMVY, returning to FM after listener-supported online period

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This week WMVY, a radio institution on Martha’s Vineyard, turned on the transmitter at the station’s new frequency, 88.7 FM, returning to the airwaves after a year-and-a-half absence. The milestone provided a second bookend to a storied broadcast/digital history that recently saw listeners raise over $600,000 to keep the station going, and its staff intact.

WMVY started 32 years ago at 92.7 FM. The signal went off the air in 2012 as part of a sale to WBUR. Until this week, WMVY was available in webcast form only to Martha’s Vineyard listeners. (A translator signal in Newport continued broadcasting.)

During the one and a half years of over-the-air absence in the Vineyard, listeners rallied to keep the station operating, without any changes to the staff or its unique programming. P.J. Finn, WMVY’s Program Director, told RAIN that a “Save MVY Radio” campaign raised $600,000 between November 2012 and January 2013, buying the station time to build a larger fundraising effort throughout 2013.

When the station went off the air, Jennifer Lane characterized it in her Audio4cast blog as “The best radio station in the world,” with a “local flavored, eclectic-folk-alternative format that generations of islanders have come to love.”

“Martha’s Vineyard is a tourist community,” P.J. Finn told RAIN in a phone conversation. “People wait all year to come back to this place they hold special. When they arrive they put on MVY. That’s part of the whole experience.”

WMVY started webcasting its broadcast in 1998, and that side of the business proved crucial to later survival.

“I don’t know that we could be here today if we hadn’t spent so much time building the online side of the business, and building an audience through our stream,” P.J. Finn told us. “To disappear from the airwaves, and to disappear from people’s consciousness, then try to fundraise, and come back — I don’t know that anybody could have pulled that off. ┬áBeing able to stream that whole time, keeping all the programming and staff the same, enabled us to pick up yesterday where we left off on the air.”

Brad Hill