WRFG Expands Reach with New Tower of Power

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(APN) ATLANTA — In a victory for local independent media, Radio Free Georgia, WRFG 89.3 FM, began broadcasting from its new, 500-foot high location on the Richland Tower on Briarcliff Road, at full power, on October 23, 2007.

The station moved its new directional antenna and transmitter there from a 100-foot high tower on Fair Street in South Atlanta, which is at the same height as Clark Atlanta University’s Tower.

A study commissioned in 1998 determined WRFG suffered signal problems because of terrain and multipath interference [Clark Atlanta’s tower] and concluded WRFG would need to move its antenna to a higher location to remedy the problems.

The station had been operating for some time at only 70 percent capacity because its transmitter emitted too much radiation. FCC regulations dictate that a transmitter can only emit so much radiation.

Now, four million potential listeners can hear WRFG programming in all its 100,000-watt glory. “It’s a new day for WRFG,” Heather Gray, President of the WRFG Board of Directors, told Atlanta Progressive News. “We’re in the big leagues now.”

“Our signal is now vastly improved and people are able to hear us from Macon to the Alabama border, as well as inside their own homes from Gwinnett to Cobb to Clayton Counties and on!” Nadia Ali, co-producer of Just Peace on Mondays at 6pm EST, wrote in an email announcement obtained by APN.

“People should feel confident now that their information will get out to communities around Atlanta,” Gray said.

The station’s “Tower of Power” capital campaign has helped raise the money needed to pay for the new antenna and transmitter in addition to other expenses like installation and consultation fees.

For the last three years, WRFG has received individual donations from members of the community and listeners, while Board Members have worked to raise money on their own. The campaign also benefitted from a $125,000 federal grant.

Gray told APN in August 2006 that at that time the station had raised $175,000 and needed $50,000 more.

“We’ve tried to expand the base of contributors to our capital campaign,” Gray said. “[We have] tried to reach out to people who have not donated to us before to expand our network in that way.”

WRFG still needs to raise about $20,000 before the campaign is complete. “It’s not been easy, but on the other hand we know people have been excited,” Gray said.

“We are so appreciative of the support we have received from the people of Atlanta,” she continued. “They realize the importance of grassroots radio.”

“With our vastly increased air quality, people can hear us,” Gray added. “We’re not going to fade out on them. It gives people a certain level of confidence. People will know there are better opportunities for the community.”

Radio Free Georgia originated as a 10-watt station operating from Little Five Points starting in 1973.

“WRFG grew out of the movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s,” Gray said. “The early founders could have started a newspaper but they chose instead to create a radio station,” in part because of the emergence of former The Great Speckled Bird newspaper. “The station is a tool to implement ideas.”

The Great Speckled Bird ran the first news article about WRFG years ago and was instrumental in helping with its founding, one of WRFG’s original founders, Harlon Joye, said in an interview transcript obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

Similar to the Great Speckled Bird, WRFG’s founders say they were subject to police harassment and spying, the transcript says. WRFG was seen as a center of radicalism in Atlanta.

WRFG was one of the only progressive radio stations in the United States at the time, Joye said, in addition to a few Pacifica stations and a few independent ones.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since July 2006, Atlanta Progressive News journalists including Matthew Cardinale and Jonathan Springston have been weekly guests each Thursday at 12pm EST on Adam Shapiro’s Current Events show on WRFG. Please tune in.

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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