The radio hasn’t been a very friendly place for progressive views these last few years, but that’s about to change. In the next month or so, Detroit residents will have the opportunity to listen to a new radio station called WNUC (96.7 FM) that plans on offering both talk and music programming with a community and social justice focus. The radio project is being spearheaded by the North End Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC), a Detroit-based transit justice group with links around the city. Critical Moment spoke with NEWCC’s director Rev. Joan Ross to find out more about WNUC and its progress.
CM: Could you start off by telling us a little about what the project entails?
Rev. Ross: Sure. In 2013, the FCC opened the window for community-based and faith-based organizations to enable them to get a license for a low-power FM radio station. Actually, it’s those bands of static that you hear when you are tuning your dial. Those are the frequencies that are in the low range that were available for community [use]. This is the first time in 15 years that the process has actually opened up and given us the opportunity [to use it in Detroit]. Most of the larger media have always managed to keep those bands, or opportunities, shut down. But through a legislation from Obama that opportunity came forward…. We are picking up the station that’s coming out of Ontario, so we had to be approved by the canadian FCC as well as FCC here in the United States.
Our call letters are WNUC, standing for North End Uniting Community, and our hope and intent is that this this would be an opportunity to unite communities all across the city to have power and to have voice again, because we aren’t in mainstream [media]. Our thoughts, our angles, our side of the story never gets told. So we started the process in April, 2014…. At this point we have purchased our antenna, and we got our office space. We’re going to be broadcasting from 7700 Second Ave., which is right in New Center. The signal will cover between 5 and 7 miles. So we will pick up all the way down to the river. We have an estimated reach of about 300,000 people. So we’ll cover Midtown, Downtown, North End, New Center, Hamtramck, Highland Park and just a little snippet of Southwest Detroit.
Tell us about the programming. I understand it will be music and talk.
Music and talk, community issues, grassroots on-the-ground stuff. I’m going to be hosting a program called “My Block, My Hood, My City” that I hope will cover what’s happening in community but also what’s happening in the city and how it’s affecting community.
NEWCC went to city council almost four years ago now asking why wasn’t there a community benefit agreements ordinance on the books. There has been a resolution since 1984 …. but nobody’s ever taken us up on that…. We have now crafted community benefits ordinance language that we’re waiting for council to approve. That’s a big part of what my show will be.
Some of the other programming… Of course we’re Pacifica, so we’ll be picking up a lot of the wonderful national programs: Thom Hartmann, Democracy Now. We’re going to be doing a large [segment] for the Latino community, because we do reach in Southwest Detroit. We’re going to do a lot of Spanish programming early in the morning.
We’re doing some wonderful programming with young broadcasters here in Detroit. The youngest one is 10-years-old, and the program’s called “Radio to the Future.” They’re going to be taking over our airwaves every day from 3 to 5 pm to do things right after school that are of interest to them. We’re doing a great new program called “Positively Freestyle.” We’re going to bring hip-hop to news… so that young people can actually hear the news in a media that they are interested in.
Eight o’clock Sunday evenings… the young ones are going to be reading their top stories for the children. We’ve got a lot of great programs. Some I can’t talk about now but lots of things are coming.
Any idea when you’ll be getting on the air?
We are having some issues with permitting from the city. We hope to sometime before Christmas  we believe.
The costs are great. We began this without foundation support or foundation dollars, so we’re doing this strictly with community efforts, and it’s a little expensive. There are stations that have already lost their construction permits because the cost was too great. I guess right now we’re probably in for about $50,000. We just found the tower company that is going to erect the tower on the building that we’re in is going to be another $7,000. We [certainly] need funding, if there are folks who want to step up with that.
How can people contribute?
Great question. Lots of ways. First, we have Text To Give, a person can text 444999 and the call letters WNUC, and they can give right on their cell phone. They can go on our website, WNUC.org, hit the donate button and they can give that way. Of course, checks in the mail always work, and if nothing else we… we can swipe the credit card and do it on the square.
Are you still looking for people? And, if so, how can they get involved?
There are two ways to get involved. You can follow us on Facebook, and on the side of the Facebook page, which is WNUC 96.7 Detroit, there’s a signup for our newsletter and that will tap you into everything. You can go to wnuc.org, hit volunteer and fill in the information. We’ll get into touch with you. People can [also] submit through the demo submission area for folks that have tapes. We’re looking for some great programming out of Detroit.
One of the things that we want to do is put a different booth in different locations like libraries and barber shops where folks can go in and just answer maybe three questions for the week.
We want as many voices in Detroit as possible, not just mine.
It’s an effort that involves community. So we’re trying to build this thing in the public, out in the open. It’ll be the voice that we need, because we haven’t had power; we haven’t had our message carried. We haven’t had the opinions that we have expressed. We have a lot of folks coming from the outside telling us about Detroit. So we need to hear from the folks in Detroit. Because that’s where the difference is going to be, the folks that stayed when the lights went off. Those are the voices that we need to hear!