Feb. 16, 2003 – Adding home-grown programming to V.I. public radio is shaping up to be something akin to running an off-shore broadcast in reverse, according to the general manager of WVGN-FM.
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, "The Doug Lewis Show" made its debut as the local PBS affiliate's first locally produced program.
Lewis, the on-air name used by a longtime St. Thomas resident, hosts a two-hour show that features album cuts from folk, roots rock, blues and non-commercial music from talented if lesser-known artists.
WVGN has been on the air at 107.3 FM as public radio in the Virgin Islands since last September. General manager Karen Bass, who's based in California, said she hopes to add more local programming as the station takes hold and more listeners lend their support. Right now, she said, the audience appears to be made up of professionals and business owners, many of whom were fans of National Public Radio from their days of living on the U.S. mainland.
Many well-wishers have been providing feedback by e-mail, she said.
Lewis said he has been doing radio shows as a hobby since his college days, and the time he spends playing music is something he looks forward to. "It's a nice break from what I do for a living," he said.
He's now doing it differently, however. When "The Doug Lewis Show" originated in the '90s on Ackley Communications' WIVI-FM and later when it moved to non-commercial WIUJ-FM, he did the show live.
Now, he records his weekly show on a compact disc and mails it off Bass in Los Angeles, where it's programmed into the lineup of scheduled WVGN shows.
The production as well as the programming of the show has gone high tech. To keep his sound from getting stale, Lewis said, he surfs the Internet talking to other alternative music hosts about what they're playing and where they get it. And by checking music bulletin boards, he gets in touch with small-market record producers and artists who get their work before the public by sending samples to radio people like Doug.
Bass said it was Lewis's enthusiasm that persuaded her to make his show the V.I. PBS affiliate's first local offering. "Doug is an example of someone who contacted us before we went on the air. We were very encouraged," she said.
Also encouraging, Bass said, was the $10,000 brought in by the not-for-profit station's first effort at raising funds, a membership drive in December. She said the campaign "went well, considering we were just getting started."
New members are accepted at any time. Membership is a tax-deductible $40 or more a year. Donations by charge card and pledges for periodic payments may be made by calling toll-free (866) 480-8029.
Another fund raiser is tentatively scheduled for spring, Bass said. Also on the horizon is a survey of listeners to find out about their demographics and learn what National Public Radio network programming they would most like to hear locally.
From the start, the station has offered NPR's two top-rated news magazine programs across the nation, the a.m. "Morning Edition" and the evening "All Things Considered." To see the current lineup, visit the WVGN-FM Web site.
The station is owned by Bass's brother Keith Bass, a Los Angeles entrepreneur. He provided start-up funding of $500,000 to get it on the air last fall.
Karen Bass said her brother visited the Virgin Islands, fell in love with the place and decided he wanted to develop a local public radio station. There being no educational radio frequencies available, he decided to buy the commercial station WVGN and turn it into a public radio outlet.
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