By Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris
10.21.16: National – (Politics): The new low-powered radio station that launched Thursday in Philadelphia could quite possibly be where the City’s next big personalities are born. It was, after all, radio stations like WPPM 106.5, which was years in the making and took thousands of hours of volunteer labor to usher in the October 20th inaugural broadcast, that birthed the careers of some of Philadelphia’s most iconic voices.
Mr. Jerry Blavat, better known as “The Geator with the Heater,” a South Philadelphia-born disc-jockey, in 1998 was included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame via a permanent museum exhibit on radio. His beginnings, of course, were less grandiose: working out of a 250 watt radio station in Camden.
Ms. Loraine Ballard Morril, a bona fide local radio legend who currently serves as the News and Community Affairs Director for IHeartMedia’s six Philadelphia stations, began her career in broadcasting at the University of Maryland, but it was her stint in community radio where she truly learned and mastered the craft of over-the-air communications.
It’s the hope of WPPM’s station manager, Ms. Vanessa Maria Graber, who credits Ms. Morril with teaching her how to build a connection with listeners, that people will become members of PhillyCAM, the public access media institution which was granted the non-commercial educational license to form WPPM 106.5, to establish themselves as radio personalities in the Philadelphia market, which is the fourth largest in America.
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Currently, WPPM 106.5 has fifteen programs on air, all produced and hosted by experienced radio professionals. 35 original programs, said Ms. Graber, who under the WPPM brand wants to re-humanize radio and “take back the airwaves,” are in development now and hope to be in rotation by the end of this year or at the start of the next.
“I’m so happy there’s another community radio station in Philadelphia,” said Ms. Morril, who along with Mr. Blavat, Ms. Graber, WXPN’s Mr. Robert Drake and Ms. Tiffany Bacon, an actress and famed personality current working for Radio One, participated on Thursday in the inaugural broadcast ceremony and panel discussion.
The content the ad-free radio station desires is that which isn’t provided by the mainstream media and which has a focus on local events, news and music.
“We’re going to provide solutions, teach people how to advocate for themselves, and celebrate local musicians,” Ms. Graber, who wants WPPM 106.5 to be everyone’s neighborhood station, said.
To boot, the talent associated with WPPM 106.5 will be able to leverage PhillyCAM’s cable television asset to assist in building an audience.
According to Ms. Graber, there are already 250 volunteers committed to WPPM 106.5’s success. Individuals interested in becoming a voice on the new radio station located in Center City Philadelphia must be a member of PhillyCAM – membership cost is $25 a year and $15 for seniors.
Overseeing the radio station is more than just job for Ms. Graber; it appears this is among her life’s calling. Facilitating opportunities for new voices to be unearthed is clearly something she’s passionate about, and her passion is rather infectious.
The inaugural broadcast of WPPM 106.5, while a newsworthy event for the City, was, for Ms. Graber, an act of liberation and the materialization of collective aspiration.
“I’m so emotional that my dream has finally come true,” she said.
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