While WVGN went off the air last week, the St. Thomas National Public Radio community may still be able to listen to local broadcast of NPR – but the community will need to step up to help.
The Virgin Islands Public Television System (WTJX channel 12) is eager to bring the programming back to the territory. WTJX also has an FM radio station – 93.1 FM – which just began broadcasting in January.
"We’ve been talking to NPR since we read about WVGN going off the air,” Tanya Singh, V.I. Public Television System chief executive officer, said Saturday. Singh said a Source article was the first news she had had that it was a fact.
"We had heard rumors, so we were aware of the possibility,” she said. "When it was confirmed, we called NPR. I think it was the same day. I had to get the support of my board before we could move on.”
Singh met with her board Saturday, and got the go ahead she needed.
"This is an exciting time for us, to get such cool brands, public media brands, under our belt, for the enhancement of our community,” she said.
"We are having solid talks with NPR,” she said. "We knew what we were looking at on the NPR side. We were well into that the very day that the Source article came out.”
WTJX got a construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission to expand into FM radio about three years ago, Singh said. At the time they planned for NPR-style programming for the station, but government budget cuts got in the way, she said.
"And just last week, there was another 8 percent cut.”
However, Singh doesn’t appear to be easily defeated.
"We still have the cost of programming and the equipment to receive it,” she said. "We need a satellite downlink receiver to carry NPR, We put out a request to other PBS stations with dual licenses for television and radio asking if they had that particular piece of equipment, and if it could be donated. We got a response from one station, but it wasn’t the right piece.”
Singh said it’s not uncommon for the PBS stations to help one another out.
What she needs now, she said, is help from the community.
"We are really running a tight ship with respect to financing,” she said. "We hope our regular contributors will come forward, and we are trying to get contributions from the business community.”
Singh specifically is asking the NPR listening community for support."
I know we have a dedicated group of listeners,” she said. "I can be contacted at [email protected],”
Meantime, NPR programming is available on its website through various digital listings.
WVGN was sold last year to Detroit-based broadcaster Robert J. Watkins. The station went off the air March 15, and began broadcasting as WVIE. It carries contemporary programming, and Watkins said he plans to eventually adopt a lively format with a live DJ interacting with the local audience.