What's old is new again on North Adams' WMNB radio

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NORTH ADAMS — There's a new radio station in town, and many local folks might recognize the call letters — WMNB.

And it's on the hunt for new, local programming.

It's not the same station as the one that changed its name 11 years ago, though. This one is a low-power, nonprofit community station started up by the folks at the Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp., the local cable access TV operation.

And according to Mike Putnam, WMNB general manager and president of the board of NBCTC, the format is wide open, allowing for a wide variety of community programming. The new station coincides with the relocation of the NBCTC to its new offices at the corner of Union and Canal streets.

He said his hopes are that people will come in with ideas for shows that reflect the community's needs, issues and sensibilities.

Right now, there are several syndicated shows, featuring oldies tunes, Polka, Irish music and Doo Wop.

The oldies show, "Nothing But Old 45s," is produced and syndicated by local radio personality Larry Kratka.

"I heard they wanted to start up a community station," Kratka said. "I know Mike, so I gave him a call and said, 'You need some programming. I have an oldies show and I wanted to donate it to your station.' Turned out he was already a fan."

The original call letters WMNB represented a commercial radio station launched in North Adams in 1964. In 2005, station owner Vox Communications changed the call letters to WUPE.

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Kratka said he was thrilled to hear the old call letters WMNB resurrected.

"The new MNB has the potential to create a major new outlet for local folks to get into broadcasting," he said. "Whatever they can come up with has a chance to be broadcast on a community station."

Then there is Putnam's own morning show — A.M. North Berkshires — broadcast live from 6 to 9 a.m. on weekday mornings. It features reports from local news outlets, including The Berkshire Eagle, and a variety of music and talk.

And from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. every day, the station broadcasts music from a catalogue of thousands of songs — from the 1940s through today — entered by Putnam into a database and broadcast in random order throughout the day, aside from the 6 p.m. hour when "Democracy Now!" airs.

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So there's plenty of room for more variety.

The low-power signal, at 107.1 on the radio dial, reaches through North Adams and Clarksburg, most of Adams, and some of Williamstown, Cheshire and Stamford, Vt.

For about 10 years, Putnam has been working on a plan to establish a new radio station for local needs.

When Tropical Storm Irene hit the area in 2011, Putnam was pained to see that there was no local radio to provide news updates.

Then the FCC started selling broadcast licenses for low-power local stations, and WMNB received its license in 2014. It took to the air in February.

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"We want to have that access to be able to tell people what's going on," Putnam said. In the event of another Irene, he said, he would break into regular programming for updates, such as evacuation orders or public safety emergency notifications.

Radio stations owned by national chains don't really serve their local markets, he added.

"Though they act differently, they don't have a license to make money," Putnam said. "They have a license to serve the public. That's what their broadcast license says."

One of the syndicated shows is Untold Story, which focuses on Doo Wop music of the '50s and early '60s. It airs from 7 to 10 p.m. every Sunday, and again from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays.

One local listener, local attorney Richard Taskin, was happy to discover "Untold Story," a show named after a song recorded by the Nutmegs.

Taskin said he is hoping members of the community will take advantage of this local radio resource.

"People out there have all kinds of interest," he said, noting that potential show styles include talk shows, radio dramas, gospel, bluegrass and anything in between.

"This new radio station is great news for the community," Taskin said.

Contact Scott Stafford at 413-496-4301.


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