Editor’s note: This op-ed, submitted to The Beachcomber two weeks ago, was updated by Lisa Breen to provide more information about VashonBePrepared and VOV’s emergency alert system in light of developments about COVID-19.
Back in 1999, the Federal Communications Commission proposed its low power FM radio program to provide rural communities — which were far from large population hubs and underserved by mainstream media — with their own federally-licensed FM frequencies for times of emergency or other important community activities. Although Vashon Island was initially refused a license, this FCC proposed program was the start of something much bigger for our community.
A small, yet mighty group of pioneers were inspired and had a vision. They didn’t give up, they stepped back, re-evaluated and moved forward toward the dream. It is that tenacity and passion that I want to talk about. I wish I had the space to tell the entire story of Voice of Vashon’s evolution.
Susan McCabe likes to call Voice of Vashon “your friendly island media conglomerate”; Rick Wallace, elected to the board in 2008, likes to call us “a three-legged stool,” the three legs being online web streaming, radio broadcasting and Comcast Channel 21 community access TV. Voice of Vashon is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, but we suspect that a lot of folks on the island don’t really know what to call us or what to make of us, how to find us, what we have to offer, or how to support us — which brings us to today.
Community. Voices. Partnerships. Connections. Information. These are all words that come to mind when I think about the Voice of Vashon and the unique experience the organization brings to our small island. “Radio is Dead” is a phrase I hear quite often, mostly by people who have succumbed to the self-curated existence of Spotify and Pandora. Some people have not taken the time to experience the unprecedented originality that Voice of Vashon offers our community. I was one of those people until I started working at the station a little over a year ago. My eyes were opened to a resource and a treasure that some have yet to experience or appreciate.
Small town, rural radio stations are still thriving, and they offer a look into communities like ours that is not immediately obvious to the casual observer. By listening to the same pre-programmed podcasts or music, you are missing out on a delightful connection to your small town and local community!
Not only does Voice of Vashon offer many talk shows focusing on local and national topics, but we also have almost every genre of music. From reggae to country, Celtic to rock and roll, you can find a show that tickles your fancy. All shows are hosted and curated by local island residents. With over 40 different shows, it would be hard to not know someone on the air at some point during the week. island-centric, indeed.
One of the proudest elements of Voice of Vashon, and something we are quite passionate about, is our EmergencyAlert System. By partnering with VashonBePrepared, we have been able to operate our on-air emergency alert system guaranteeing accessible safety information throughout our community via the airwaves at 1650AM. Whether it’s power outages, ferry disruptions, warming shelter information, or food bank distribution centers, we make sure you and your neighbors know how to stay safe in an emergency. With the uncertainty of our current global health crisis in play, Voice of Vashon is working hard to keep our community up to date and informed. The information changes daily and our Emergency Alerts team is doing everything we can to be sure our community knows how to stay safe. We are using the airwaves and our social media outreach to keep everyone connected with up to the minute information. We want Vashon to be a safe and secure environment and we are doing all we can to facilitate that.
Voice of Vashon has been around for 20 years — yes, I know, that’s crazy, right?! What started out in a basement as an internet radio station has grown over the years to include two radio stations — KVSH LP 101.9FM and 1650AM Emergency Alerts — two studios to broadcast — a community access TV station, Comcast Channel 21 — as well as live streaming from our website and our mobile app. All of this work is still being done by an army of volunteers who love our community and love to broadcast.
Please do yourself a favor and if you haven’t listened, or if it’s been a while since you last listened, tune in to Voice of Vashon and become a partner in keeping our community connected. Not only do we know what you like to hear for fun, but we know what you need to hear to stay informed. We invite you to partner with us in keeping Vashon a vibrant and connected community. Through your support and with the support of island businesses, Voice of Vashon can continue to be your island connection. Go tovoiceofvashon.org and become a sustaining partner today!
Lisa Breen is the executive director of Voice of Vashon.