Baton Rouge Community Radio began as the Baton Rouge Progressive Network (BRPN), which started as a coalition between LSU students and community activists. BRPN was founded in 1999 and incorporated as a nonprofit organization under the laws of the State of Louisiana in June of 2000. The founding vision of BRPN was to form a nonprofit cooperative of individuals dedicated to facilitating communication and education as they pertain to progressive ideals within the Baton Rouge community.
BRPN first applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a low power FM community radio license in 2000 during a very rare window for such applications. BRPN was first awarded a construction permit for a low power FM radio station by the FCC in 2004. The station name, assigned by the FCC, is WHYR-LP. Another party hijacked BRPN’s electronic account at the FCC without BRPN’s knowledge or consent and illegally transferred control of WHYR-LP to themselves without the FCC’s authorization. BRPN hired a media law attorney and filed several legal petitions to the FCC calling for investigation and reconsideration. This spanned March of 2006 through December 2009. On January 25, 2010, the FCC finally ruled that BRPN is the legal license holder of WHYR-LP. BRPN organization was given a timeline of 18 months to construct the station and begin operations. The FCC has also fined the other party $20,000 for their actions.
BRPN is grateful to both the Prometheus Radio Project (www.prometheusradio.org) and Attorney Michael Couzens for their unwavering assistance and support in obtaining our radio license.
WHYR Development Timeline
June 2000: BRPN applied to FCC to operate a low-power FM radio station.
September 2004: Awarded construction permit, assigned call letters WHYR-LP.
November 2005: An unaffiliated entity transferred control of WHYR-LP without FCC authorization.
March 2006: Investigation into the unauthorized entity spans from March 2006 to December 2009.
October 2007: BRPN applied to FCC to operate a full-power, non-commercial, educational FM radio station.
January 2010: FCC ruled in favor of BRPN as legal license holder of WHYR-LP, set June 2011 as deadline to begin broadcasting.
February 2011: Formed Community Advisory Board (CAB) to make managerial and operational decisions related to the station. Secured transmitter site.
March 2011: Purchased antenna.
April 2011: Purchased radio software, transmitter equipment, and launched www.whyr.org.
June 2011: Hosted first annual Radiopalooza fundraising event.
June 2011: Began broadcasting local music.
August 2011: Expanded program grid with local volunteer-produced specialty talk and music shows, as well as a few syndicated national shows.
October 2011: Opened excess offices within the station as a collaborative space for start-ups, non-profit organizations and other community groups to meet.
November 2011: Began development of a new website featuring community events and other pertinent station information in a more user-friendly format.
December 2011: Development committee begins planning for a spring 2012 Fund Drive.
March 2012: Launch of the whyr.org website.
November 2012: Thanks to generous listener support, began online streaming.
December 2016: WHYR holds its first, successful, on-air pledge drive.
June 2018: Seven years on the air!
The following are projects that BRPN/WHYR has been involved with in the past decade.
Progressive Socials are informal gatherings at a local watering hole of folks in our extended network.
Community Riffs are an exchange of questions & responses between BR progressives for the purpose of sharing with each other how we think, live, and feel, what we know, and how we engage with our community.
Restaurant Rating Project
Starting in February of 2011 the Baton Rouge Progressive Network started work on a local restaurant rating project. This project was designed to rate Baton Rouge restaurants in the categories of sustainability, localism, and environmental impact.
Plastic Grocery Bag Initiative
Beginning in January of 2011, the Baton Rouge Progressive Network teamed up with the Environmental Conservation Organization at LSU (ECO) and another local sustainability group, EcoPods, to take a crack at reducing the use of disposable grocery bags. We took a look at the numbers and discovered that Americans discard approximately 100 billion plastic grocery bags every year. Nationally, only about 2% of that number gets recycled. The statistics may improve by a factor of ten for paper bags, but that still means we’re using an estimated 10 billion bags annually. Several municipalities have either outlawed plastic grocery bags or are presently considering legislation to do so or to heavily tax them to reduce use. We decided it would be a good starting point to engage in an education campaign and at least ask consumers to consider whether they really need a bag at all or else to bring their own reusable fabric bags from home.
Another component of this initiative is to inform retail establishments and consumers of existing laws regarding grocery bags. For example, many grocery, convenience or liquor store clerks will tell customers that they are required to have a bag for purchases of alcoholic beverages. Our organizational partnership obtained an opinion letter from the East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney’s office that states unambiguously that no such ordinance exists in our city. We are in the process of sending copies of this letter to various retail chains to request that they inform their employees that if patrons wish to use that handle on their six-pack or liter “handle” of alcohol rather than a superfluous bag to transport their purchase to their car, they are well within their rights to do so. It’s a simple thing, but it’s nevertheless a start and may help reduce the waste stream by thousands of bags across the city every single day if citizens/customers comply
Progressive Film Series
The Baton Rouge Progressive Network collaborated with Slow Food, BRASS, and ECO at LSU to host our first film series in Baton Rouge. From September 22 to November 16 of 2010, we featured three documentary films that focused on progressive issues – local food, transportation/bikes, and oil/water. The films were shown in LSU’s school of Energy Coast & Environment in the Dalton J. Woods Auditorium. The films were very well attended and often a lively discussion ensued afterward.
Collaboration with Tyrus Thomas C.A.T.C.H. foundation and BR Youth Coalition
In the summer of 2010 the Baton Rouge Progressive Network initiated two workshops facilitated by the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition (BRYC) with the the Tyrus Thomas Inc. C.A.T.C.H. foundation. In these sessions BRYC’s Daniel Kahn illustrated to the group of 9th graders the importance of a positive goal oriented attitude to academic success. The following week, a group of students from the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition shared their stories of endurance and academic success with the group of 9th graders.
Lobbying 101 Workshop
On Saturday, March 20, 2010, from 3 – 4:30p, BRPN hosted a lobbying workshop at the River Center Library in downtown Baton Rouge. Entitled, “Spring Into Action: Lobbying for Progressive Change,” the workshop was attended by approximately 30 local citizens. Attendees heard from veteran lobbyist Darryl Hunt and District 61 State Representative Micheal Jackson. Guests came away with a much stronger sense of what it takes to get progressive issues passed at the Louisiana legislature and improved fluency in the language of effective citizen lobbying. We got very positive feedback and significant interest in a repeat performance of this essential grass-roots workshop.
On Tuesday March 4, 2008 at the D. Jensen Holliday Memorial Forum in the Old Journalism Building on the campus of Louisiana State University, the Baton Rouge Progressive Network invited the public to attend a forum for candidates in the race for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District. BRPN co-hosted the event with several groups including: The Bienville House Center for Peace and Justice, LSU’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs, College Democrats at LSU, the Society for Political Interest and Networking, the LSU English Department, and the LSU Law School Democrats. The forum was moderated by LSU English professor Dr. Irvin Peckham.
This event was designed to give the public an opportunity to pose general questions and questions of interest to the progressive community directly to the candidates in advance of Louisiana’s special election on March 8, 2008. Participating candidates included Democrats Joe Delatte, Jason Decuir, Michael Jackson and Andy Kopplin, as well as Independent Ashley Casey and Republican Michael Cloonan. There was a lively debate on substantive issues before a standing room only crowd.