Nearly 50 years after its first broadcast, a Vermont community radio station has announced that is officially owned by the public — a rare feat in the annals of radio ownership transition.
Station WGDR/WGDH was built and operated by Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., as a college and community radio station. In 2020, the newly established nonprofit Central Vermont Community Radio (CVCR) was gifted the radio station from the college, making it the only full-power community owned and operated noncommercial station in Vermont.
The transfer represents “a huge milestone nationally for the public and community radio industry,” the station said in a release. The move is noteworthy, especially for a college station, since university- and college-owned stations across the country are often sold to meet budget shortfalls, the station said.
Under CVCR’s ownership, the station will continue its affiliation with the Pacifica Network, a community of independent radio stations that give local communities a platform on which to share local issues on a national level. The Pacifica Network also airs nationally broadcast programming like “Democracy Now” and live coverage of international events.
With this move, Goddard College is saying that their commitment to residents, students and the local culture is far greater than money, said Ernesto Aguilar, executive director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. “When institutions like Goddard say they want to pass the torch of media access in this way, it’s worthy of thanks and celebration,” he said.
The transition allows WGDR/WGDH to continue to broadcast a diversity of ideas, stories and culture to Vermonters across the northern part of the state.
“Radio is more relevant and relatable today, especially on a local level,” the station said in its statement. “When you tune in to community radio, you hear the voices of your neighbors, which, during the pandemic, has proven to be a powerful tool in remaining connected.”
CVCR said it will continue the mission of the station, providing a forum that covers issues such as social justice, arts and music and protection of the environment.
“As an independent station, WGDR/WGDH will be able to pursue a variety of ways to diversify not just what is broadcast, but who is given a voice on the air, uplifting the stories of those who are underrepresented in the current Vermont media landscape,” the station said. “CVCR takes this deep responsibility of community radio to heart as it takes on ownership of WGDR/WGDH. CVCR invites all to tune in to help program what comes next.”