Sun, UMass Lowell join for local radio program

08/03/2007
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.

By SUSAN McMAHON
Sun Staff

LOWELL Looking for Route 3 traffic updates? Want to find out what happened at last night's City Council meeting?

Just tune your radio to 91.5 FM weekdays between 5 and 10 a.m.

A new radio venture between UMass Lowell and The Sun will soon bring regional news to area listeners weekday mornings.

Sun Publisher Kendall Wallace and UMass Lowell Chancellor William Hogan will announce the signing of a five-year contract between the two institutions today.

"Having a quality public radio station interested in promoting the region and the university is a real plus," Wallace said. "It's a win-win for all of us."

The 5-to-9 a.m. programming on 91.5 FM, tentatively titled "Lowell Sunrise," will be modeled after news stations such as WBZ or WBUR, with quick hits of area news, traffic, sports and weather. In the final hour, the program will focus on in-depth interviews with area leaders and university experts.

But the new partnership will not be talk radio, said officials from UMass Lowell and The Sun.

"It's a chance to focus on Merrimack Valley news for people within a 15-20 mile radius of the university," said UMass Lowell spokesman Christine Dunlap.

The station, which reaches from Manchester, N.H., nearly to Boston, has been student-run and noncommercial for all of its 50-year existence. It will stay that way under the new agreement, with students keeping jurisdiction over the remainder of the radio time and operations following a public radio model, officials said.

Under the plan, a nonprofit organization, Lowell Community Broadcasting, will be established, overseeing the production and fund raising necessary for the morning program.

The Sun will be contracted to provide production and broadcast expertise, as well as the news content and promotion for the station.

The makeup of the LCB board will be announced in the coming weeks, but will be comprised of wide community representation, including UMass Lowell officials and alumni, Wallace said.

An intern program will be established for students, enabling them to obtain professional experience in news broadcasting. But some students have expressed concerns about the morning news program.

Officials said they hoped to provide students with more opportunities than were available to them before.

"We want to work with them to find ways to make the experience better for them and for all of the constituencies of the radio station," Dunlap said.

U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, an alumni of UMass Lowell, praised the new partnership as one that will allow two Merrimack Valley leaders to pool their resources for the good of the region.

"I'm constantly asked how it is that Lowell always does so well, and it's because of public-private partnerships just like this one," he said. "This city and its economic leaders have a well-established record of being able to deliver and help invigorate our economy, and I have no doubt that this exciting news endeavor will be another outstanding example of that success."

The partnership follows with the university's mission of serving the local community, Hogan said.

"As a public institution, it is our mission to bring our capacities, talents and expertise to bear in enhancing the life of the community we serve," he said.

Wallace lauded Hogan for his willingness to make the project happen.

"Bill Hogan had only one rule," he said. "'Just make sure it's quality programming,' was all the chancellor asked. And we intend to do just that."

Susan McMahon's e-mail address is smcmahon@lowellsun.com .