Lexington businesswoman Debra Hensley, well-known for her “social stimulus” initiatives highlighting interesting and often unknown aspects of Lexington, is now leading an effort to bring that same spirit to local airwaves.
“We want something really locally relevant, with community engagement and empowering programs,” Hensley said of her effort to bring a low-power, community radio station to Lexington.
She said she had been discussing the idea recently with people in the area who know radio like WUKY general manager Tom Godell and Lexington artist Mick Jeffries. Now, with the Local Community Radio Act signed in 2011 by President Barack Obama, Hensley says she and a group of interested parties are working toward an October application deadline to get a frequency.
Low-power stations, which cover a range of three-and-a-half miles up to 10 miles, according to the Prometheus Radio Project, are most prevalent in rural areas. But the Community Radio Act opened the possibility for stations in more populous areas by reducing the distance on the dial there must be between stations.
Hensley envisions a station that would reach much of the core of Lexington and provide a forum for everything from hyper-local news to a forum for ideas and discussion to a place to hear local performers.
“”I love the idea of small … bigger is not always better … small means local,” Hensley said in a note, after our chat, “From broadcasting an announcement about a lost dog, a neighborhood meeting, to a public forum on race relations to a hub for teaching young people skills and giving them a voice.”
Recently, Hensley had been dabbling in podcasting, creating programs on people like Kentucky Theatre manager Fred Mills and heirloom seed expert Bill Best. Godell, she said, told her the podcasts were just the sort of programming community radio is designed for.
Hensley said Tanya Torp, who has done extensive work with organizations such as the Lyric Theatre and the William Wells Brown Neighborhood Association, will help head up the radio project.
Hensley, whose hosts a Hyrdration Station water stand and open garden at her Nicholasville Road insurance office, and Torp are birds of a feather. Torp is know for activities such as distributing fresh produce to her neighbors, particularly the elderly, and she and her husband Christian turned their 2010 wedding reception into a community outreach event including food distribution and voter registration.
She said July will begin a fairly intense period of work to make sure they meet all the requirements for a station, including committing to 20 hours of local programming a week.
“I don’t want to miss this opportunity,” Hensley said. “This really has the potential to empower local voices and impact the community.”