Catholic radio station set to air in Wilmington
By Frank Morock
NC Catholic Staff
The first Catholic radio station in North Carolina is set to make its broadcast debut in early July in the Wilmington area. WBPL-LPFM will broadcast 24 hours a day on 92.7 FM. The BPL in the call letters stands for "Be Pro-Life."
The station will operate on a low power license granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Three members of St. Therese Church in Wrightsville Beach applied for one of the low power licenses being given to non-profit, religious and community groups throughout the country.
Bill Hamilton, one of the three men who were granted a construction permit, said the group was pleasantly surprised when they received the letter from the FCC. Hamilton, along with Joe DeRobertis and Jim Edens, has spent the past year learning about broadcast law, engineering designs, satellite delivery systems, towers, repeaters and a number of other technical operations that are required even for the smallest of stations.
"We came into this basically blind. We heard about the FCC offerings and decided to take a shot," Hamilton said. Then suddenly we were broadcast licensees and have had to do a lot of work to get ready for this launch, but we are just about there."
Hamilton said he has been interested in getting some Catholic programming in the Wilmington area, but the one Christian station in that market was not open to it.
The process has taken three years from the time he sent in the application in 2001 until receiving notification in February 2003. That letter informed us we had 18 months to get the station on the air or lose the license opportunity."
One of the biggest problems was getting money to help with equipment and insurance. The station will operate on a shoestring, with no paid staff. All three men volunteer their time.
The insurance costs, primarily liability regarding the tower and broadcasters liability, was more than we figured," Hamilton said. "We have had a bit of luck with raising some funds."
Father Eugene Grabowski, pastor of St. Therese, was able to assist with a matching grant from a benefactor. These men have worked so hard and are so committed to this project that I told them, if you can raise a certain amount of money, I think I can find the money to match it and they did."
The programming will be provided by Starboard Network, a company that began in 2000 and owns 18 stations, mostly in the Midwest. Its programming is carried by other low power stations that are cropping up around the country, such as WBPL-LPFM.
"Starboard sees its audience during the day as working women 35-54 with several children," said Sherry Brownrigg, president of the network. They are not necessarily devout churchgoers, but are searching."
"Our programs cover a wide variety of topics from faith in the work place, to social justice issues, to how to help families live a Catholic life," Brownrigg said.
The network, which has asked for and received a 'protocol'or consent from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) carries programming produced by the conference, including Catholic Radio Weekly, a half-hour news/magazine program. It will also carry the newest USCCB offerings, including American Catholic Radio, produced by the Franciscans and Catholic Bookmarks, a discussion with authors of recently released books.
While working to meet the July deadline, Hamilton's sights are set on possibilities for the future. "Once we get up and running and work out any kinks," Hamilton said, "it is our hope to begin adding news items from the local parish communities. Further down the road, if we can find funding and donations, we can begin adding local programming to better serve our local parishes."