Bill Siemering, a pioneer of public radio in the United States and a longtime Weavers Way member, talked about his formative years and his current project in radio to a very enthusiastic Weavers Way audience on June 11 at Weavers Way Mercantile in Mt. Airy.
He was joined by Jim Bear of G-Town Radio, our own hyper-local nonprofit radio station (www.gtownradio.com) that has been live-streaming 24 hours a day since 2007.
Siemering was the first director of programming of National Public Radio and was a prime mover in creating the first signature program of public radio, “All Things Considered.” He has been interested in radio since his college days, when he was active in the station at the University of Wisconsin. The themes that he pursued then and later at WBFO in Buffalo, WHYY in Philadelphia and at NPR have stayed with him, namely the civic value of community participation in programming and delivery of programs. By “community participation,” Siemering means the inclusion of as many voices as possible, regardless of race color, ethnicity or cultural history.
His current project is Developing Radio Partners, dedicated to supporting independent radio stations in several African countries. DRP works to support local stations, often with low-frequency programming that targets a very focused area. Farmers, in particular, are served information through this programming, and constitute an audience not unlike that of the early days of radio in the United States.
DRP strives to meet the many challenges of community radio, including the lack of resources and training needed to produce high-quality programs and limited or no Internet access.
Jim Bear, meanwhile, founded the kind of nonprofit radio station that Siemering’s group supports abroad: A low-power operation serving a limited area. By the beginning of 2018, 92.9 FM, with the call letters WGGT-LP, will broadcast in sync with G-Town’s current Internet radio programming, including music, a daily feed of news and political commentary and other programs of interest primarily to residents and businesses in Northwest Philadelphia.