BELFAST, Maine — While one is a fictional Alaskan village and the other is the shiretown of Waldo County, there are some things that Cicely, Alaska — setting for the classic television show “Northern Exposure” — and Belfast have in common.
Both are quirky places full of eccentric residents. And both offer rich possibilities for a local radio station, according to Neal Harkness, a Belfast city councilor who is trying to get that very thing off the ground in his community. The city has a low-power FM radio station license, which has been dormant for more than a year, and unless the station is on the air by the end of January 2017, the license will be forfeited.
“It’s a Belfast station. The programming would be hyper-local. We’re not trying to compete with WERU or any commercial station,” he said Friday afternoon. “I picture the TV show ‘Northern Exposure.’ The focus of the station is going to be people in Belfast talking about things going on in Belfast.”
Lots of people in the city have indicated they are interested in the radio station, Harkness said. He started a Facebook page to share information about the project, and more than 200 people so far have liked it. Many folks have shared their ideas for programming. Yet all that interest has not translated to action. A meeting about the proposed radio station held earlier this month at Belfast City Hall did not have great turnout, but Harkness is not discouraged. He’s hoping that a second meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 30, will attract more people.
“We have to try to spread the word,” he said. “We have to find the core group of people that are willing to get it going. That’s the focus right now.”
Harkness said that in order to get the station rolling, organizers would need to raise about $20,000 in startup costs. The money would purchase the radio transmitter, studio equipment, emergency broadcast system and music licensing fees, he said. There is a chance that the city might be able to find a space for the nonprofit community-run radio station, so organizers wouldn’t have to raise money for rent.
Erik Klausmeyer of Belfast is a longtime WERU disc jockey who would love to see the 100-watt low power FM station get rolling in his community.
“We’re looking for people to be active in organizing it. I’ve volunteered to be one of those people, and I’d like there to be a team of us,” Klausmeyer said. “It would be a bummer if the license lapses. I’d like to see us use it, but if the community as a whole doesn’t feel like they need it, so be it. But we have heard from a lot of people who like the idea.”
Anyone interested in participating in the proposed Belfast low-power FM radio station is asked to come to the meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, at Belfast City Hall.