Catholic FM radio begins broadcasts
By Ben Steelman
A Catholic voice has been added to Wilmington's religious radio scene.
WBPL, a low-power station, signed on July 9 at 92.7 FM, carrying a 24-hour schedule of interviews, "talk" features and phone-in shows.
All programming is currently from Relevant Radio, a nationwide Catholic network headquartered in Green Bay, Wis.; however, organizers say they hope to add community news and local shows in the future.
"We felt there was an educational need, to tell Catholics and non-Catholics what we do and don't do," said Joe DeRobertis.
He, Robert J. Edens III and William J.Hamilton makeupthe Archangel Gabriel Association,a non-profit corporation that holds the license for WBPL. (The initials in its call letters stand for "Be Pro-Life.")
The three - all members of the Knights of Columbus at St. Therese Roman Catholic Church in Wrightsville Beach - have been working on the station project in earnest for the past two years. (Although the Knights, a Roman Catholic men's fraternal organization, has been highly supportive, the organization is in no way affiliated with the station, Mr. DeRobertis said.)
Mr. Hamilton applied for the radio license with the Federal Communications Commission in 2000, the same year the agency created the low-power FM format to provide more local radio programming. Low-power FMs have effective power of 100 watts or less, with towers limited to 30 meters in height and range limited to a radius of about 3'/2 miles.
The organizers managed to put together WBPL with donations and a matching grant arranged by Father Eugene Grabowski, the pastor at St. Therese.
WBPL is a shoestring operation, with no paid staff- basically, a satellite dish and an antenna off River Road near Burnette Boulevard. Mr. DeRobertis said.
Car radios will pick up WBPL clearly in most of Wilmington. Its organizers have plans to erect a translator to carry the signal into the Ogden area sometime in the future, Mr. DeRobertis said.
For the time being, WBPL carries a 24-hour, seven-day feed of Relevant Radio, a production of the Starboard Network, a nonprofit broadcasting company that operates 18 Catholic-oriented radio stations around the country.
Relevant Radio carries programs produced by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, including Catholic Radio Weekly.
A typical week's schedule will also include broadcasts of Sunday and daily Masses, Catholic Answers Live, The Holy Rosary With Mother Angelica and even tapes of vintage talks by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
Its Morning Air show offers a mix of news, weather, humor and sports with comments from a Catholic perspective. On weekday afternoons, social worker and counselor Gregory Popcak gives advice to callers on how to deal with unruly teenagers or how to react when a spouse has her tongue pierced.
"They talk about faith and everyday life, marriage, family," Mr. DeRobertis said. "It's all Christian."
Network president Sherry Brownrigg told The N.C. Catholic newspaper that Relevant Radio's core daytime audience consisted of working mothers aged 35 to 54.
"They are not necessarily devout churchgoers but are searching," Ms. Brownrigg was quoted as saying.
WBPL carries no commercials, but organizers hope listeners will help support the stations. Donations may be sent to the Archangel Gabriel Association, 515 North Green Meadows Road, Wilmington, N.C. 28405.
Out of some two dozen radio stations broadcasting in Southeastern North Carolina, six (two FM and four AM) carry Christian, contemporary Christian or gospel formats. Five of these are operated by Family Radio Network Inc. of Wilmington.