Could G-town Radio soon jump from online to the FM dial?

On Friday, iMPeRFeCT Gallery owner Renny Molenaar’s launch of a six-month art project in the window of Maplewood Mall’s G-town Radio coincided with the announcement that could see the station grow from its online roots into a Northwest Philadelphia FM station.

Noticing the perennially-underused storefront window, Molenaar approached founder Jim Bear with an idea for an ongoing art series.

“How Much Is That Renny In The Window” will feature a new installation every Monday for the next six months.

The inaugural installation

For the first week, Molenaar re-mounted an old art project called “Eyes.” It consists of small blocks of found wood, each decorated with a colorful eye in oil paint.

Having developed the project a few years ago, the original goal was painting one eye for every year of Christianity, the eyes being a symbol for God. He completed about 1,200 of them over about four years, 10 percent of which are now mounted on the white-painted background in the storefront window.

For the remaining 23 weeks, Molenaar said Friday that he doesn’t have official plans — just a “notion” — of what he’ll install. He warned that it may be mundane, profound, pretty, tacky, or maybe a little offensive.

What’s in store for G-town Radio?

Vanessa Maria Graber is a G-town Radio host and producer whose “Really Rad Philly” show features local music and community news discussions each Friday. G-town Radio is a NewsWorks content partner.

She has also lobbied the FCC in support of community-based radio, advocating local small-scale access to the airwaves through Common Frequency, a non-profit which supports the launch of grassroots radio stations.

At the installation party, she told NewsWorks about the possibility of a new FM radio station in Germantown.

“Community radio is where it’s at: Hearing people in your community talk about the issues that affect them,” she said.

She spoke about a Congressional move more than a decade ago to protect large-scale radio broadcasters by keeping intermediate “Low Power” frequencies from being used by other groups. The argument: Low Power (LPFM) stations would cause interference for existing broadcasters.

A subsequent FCC-commissioned study, however, led to the Local Community Radio Act of 2011 which restored access to LPFM stations previously outlawed in urban areas.

Poised for growth?

Graber said a Germantown-based LPFM station could reach about 100,000 people across a four-mile radius.

Bear said the station counted almost 16,000 unique listeners in a recent month locally, nationally and internationally in Europe and even China. He also touted the prospect of reaching Northwest Philadelphians without internet access and said he thought that monthly tally could be reached over the course of a day.

“It’s exciting to think there could be three new community stations on the air in the next five years,” Graber said, looking beyond just G-town Radio.

While the process of FM launch involves a labyrinth of FCC regulations, Graber said their existing studio, programming and audience offers a head start.

“We’ve already been doing it awhile, and that’s half the battle,” said Graber of the internet station which currently offers 18 shows during 40 hours of live weekly programming.

As for what’s next beyond identifying locations for transmitters, G-town Radio folks said it would take a fundraising push and the October submission for an LPFM license.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.