Agree­ment is struck to keep Blue­grass Coun­try on the air

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - THE RE­GION BY JUSTIN WM. MOYER justin.moyer@wash­post.com

The cir­cle is un­bro­ken: Af­ter six months of un­cer­tainty, WAMU-FM (88.5) has found a home for Blue­grass Coun­try, its sig­na­ture blue­grass mu­sic off­shoot.

The sta­tion an­nounced Thurs­day that it had reached an agree­ment with the Blue­grass Coun­try Foun­da­tion, a non­profit group run by fa­mil­iar names in the Dis­trict’s blue­grass com­mu­nity, to take over the ser­vice.

Randy Bar­rett, pres­i­dent of the DC Blue­grass Union and a di­rec­tor of the Blue­grass Coun­try Foun­da­tion, said the foun­da­tion raised $150,000 in the months be­fore the agree­ment, but the deal, which takes ef­fect Feb. 6, ul­ti­mately was made for no cash.

“No one thought this was pos­si­ble, but we pulled it off,” he said.

Blue­grass Coun­try will con­tinue broad­cast­ing for at least two years on 105.5 FM, as it had un­der WAMU, and on a WAMU HD chan­nel. The foun­da­tion also re­ceived much of WAMU’s dig­i­tal mu­sic li­brary and rights to the Blue­grass Coun­try name and logo.

Dick Spottswood and Gary Hen­der­son, who be­gan pro­duc­ing blue­grass shows for WAMU 50 years ago, are among the DJs who will move with the sta­tion. Blue­grass Coun­try will con­tinue work­ing out of WAMU’s of­fices at Amer­i­can Univer­sity for at least a year.

“We all had the same de­sire, which was to have the WAMU Blue­grass legacy con­tinue,” WAMU Gen­eral Man­ager J.J. Yore said in a state­ment. “With a mu­tual goal in mind, we worked quickly and col­lab­o­ra­tively so there would be no loss of ser­vice for our blue­grass com­mu­nity.”

Though blue­grass was first broad­cast on WAMU in 1967 and gained a large fol­low­ing in the Wash­ing­ton re­gion, the sta­tion an­nounced in July that it was sell­ing Blue­grass Coun­try, cit­ing chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics and a greater in­ter­est in news pro­gram­ming among lis­ten­ers.

Blue­grass Coun­try, which was run­ning an an­nual deficit of up to $250,000 at WAMU, costs about $325,000 a year to keep on the air, Bar­rett said. The sta­tion will need fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions from sup­port­ers to keep blue­grass on Wash­ing­ton’s airwaves.

“The sta­tion is no longer fi­nan­cially back­stopped by a large in­sti­tu­tion,” he said. “We are truly com­mu­nity ra­dio now, and we need lis­ten­ers and spon­sors to con­tinue sup­port­ing the ef­fort.”

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