Profile: WUVS 103.7 LPFM – The Beat

Tune in to WUVS 103.7 LPFM in Muskegon, Michigan on a Thursday evening and you’ll hear a segment with a Muskegon County judge, a public service announcement from nearby Muskegon Heights Public Schools, and a music and talk show with WUVS founder and general manager Paul Billings, known on-air as P.A.

WUVS, a low-power FM (LPFM) station whose mission is to educate the local urban community about area issues and resources, takes its role seriously. The station employs eight staff and twelve volunteers, has its own beat reporter, and offers a high school mentoring program.

“People believe in what we do,” Billings says.

In addition to its educational mission, the station is also an important tool for communicating emergency information. When an Amber Alert was briefly issued for a teenage girl believed to be missing earlier this month, the station received a call around 7 AM asking it to broadcast the alert.
“People sometimes call the station before they call the police,” he explains, observing that the station’s broadcasting an alert like this one begins a “chain reaction” of people spreading the word around town.  (Fortunately, the recent alert turned out to be a false alarm.)

Billings, a former corrections officer, is a central figure at WUVS.  Besides hosting his afternoon show, he oversees the daily operations of the station, completes FCC paperwork, and supervises the high school mentoring program.

The station is a project of the West Michigan Community Help Network, which offers social services and cultural programs, including job fairs, health fairs, and a Peace Jam Festival. Billings says there is a dire need for services like these in the Muskegon area, which has a high percentage of single-parent homes and a marked lack of role models for young black boys and men.

When the FCC opened a brief window for LPFM station applications in 2000, Billings, who has long been passionate about radio, jumped at the opportunity to extend the Network’s reach.  With support from their district’s congressperson, the organization’s LPFM application was approved by the FCC, and in 2002, 103.7 FM – The Beat hit the airwaves.

Since then, the station has become a key community resource in Muskegon, a city of about 40,000.  The mayor calls the station the bridge between Muskegon and nearby Muskegon Heights, a small town to the south, and Billings says he receives very positive feedback from listeners.

Asked about advice for people hoping to start an LPFM station, Billings says, “Don't get caught up in trying to be ABC or CNN.”  And he encourages people to visit existing stations and to make sure their station is relevant to their community.

It’s not hard to see why WUVS describes itself as “the pulse of the city.”

“We’ve been very fortunate,” says Billings.  “Very fortunate.”


Thank you to Troy Gabrielson for putting together this peice.