Community radio coming to the FM dial in Marengo

MARENGO – The volunteers who run the online Marengo Community Radio station will need support from residents to start broadcasting on their local FM dial.

After a near decade-long hiatus, the Federal Communications Commission recently granted the Marengo community station and others across the country construction permits to build the necessary equipment to start low-power FM stations.

The federal government’s approval means the all-volunteer station in Marengo needs to raise $30,000 within the next 18 months to cover and construct the audio equipment necessary to start broadcasting locally at 94.3 FM.

“It’s legitimacy,” said Executive Director Steve Sandman about the FCC permit. “We have to meet people where they consume their information. The FM station was the last part of the puzzle.”

Marengo resident Brian Kelly, who is president of the community radio nonprofit, started putting together that puzzle six years ago when he wanted to create a news outlet exclusively focused on the Marengo area.

The group worked with officials from Marengo District 154 on a location for the radio operation. They ultimately started broadcasting online by late 2012 inside a classroom at Marengo High School.

The 24/7 Internet broadcast features a news program recapping the daily happenings in the rural town, along with programs from group sponsors like the Marengo United Methodist Church and the Marengo Historical Society.

Once the radio transmitter and antenna are built, the station can start broadcasting those programs within a 25-mile radius from the school, Sandman said. The group will look to secure donations from individuals and businesses in the area.

Interested donors can visit the station’s website, www.marengoradio.info and click on its PayPal account, Sandman said.

“The biggest challenge we have is to generate the additional funds.” he said.

A similar community radio group in nearby Huntley also has applied to the FCC for a construction permit.

The volunteers at Huntley Community Radio were recently informed that their application was acceptable. They now wait 30 days before the final construction permit is awarded.

Executive Director Allen Pollack said he expects to have that go-ahead permit by March 10. The group would then have to raise about $45-60,000 to build the equipment and start broadcasting at their studio in Deicke Park, near downtown Huntley.

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