Station Profile: WRFR-LP 93.3 FM – Rockland, Maine

What do hula-hooping sessions, poetry readings, and a social worker have in common?

Low-power radio, of course. 

Meet WRFR-LP 93.3 FM in Rockland, Maine. Representing an entry in the station’s weekly events calendar, a program broadcast on Thursday mornings, and a woman whose promotion airs on the station, this eclectic mix is par for the course at WRFR. (And for the record, the hula-hooping sessions, held on the second and fourth Friday of each month, are not a joke.)

This self-described “on-air voice of the community” in Rockland puts its microphone where its mouth is. The station features 54 programs from 50 volunteers, and it has some 85 sponsors, nearly all of them local.

At the helm of this operation sits Joe Steinberger, WRFR general manager. A lawyer and a former Rockland City Councilmember, Steinberger also helped found the station. During his time on the Council, Steinberger organized a taped debate that was to be broadcast on the municipal government’s cable channel. When the debate was withheld from the air because a councilmember was dissatisfied with the outcome, Steinberger lost interest in what he viewed as an overly restrictive channel.

Then he learned about low-power FM (LPFM).

Steinberger, who had experience in electronics and had previously broadcast on the town’s community-turned-commercial station, WRKD, was intrigued. With support from other Rockland residents, he applied for and received an LPFM license. They raised about $10,000 to cover start-up costs. The station, which is licensed to Penobscot School, a language school and center for international exchange, went on-air on Valentine’s Day, 2002.

Today, WRFR broadcasts a range of programs that’s as diverse as its volunteers. On Saturday afternoons, you’ll hear "Beam Me Up," a show featuring science fiction stories and discussion. Early Sunday afternoons, a fifteen-year-old Rockland resident plays a range of alternative and indie music. On Monday mornings, Lorain hosts "This Week on Main Street" in Rockland, a show that explores the town’s history and current events. 

Fortunately for radio fans, WRFR reaches listeners outside Rockland. The station has a live stream on its website. It also has a translator, a rare feature for an LPFM, which allows it to also broadcast in the nearby town of Camden on 99.3 FM.

How do potential listeners first hear about WRFR? The answer is actually a bit unclear. The station receives some publicity from its participation in Rockland’s annual Lobster Festival parade, and Steinberger, the station manager, also runs an ad in one of the local papers. Other events, such as the station’s recent fashion show, generate press coverage.

However Rockland residents come upon the station, its value to the community is clear. Steinberger says it’s “a place where people in the community can come,” noting that WRFR volunteers comprise people from all parts of the political spectrum.

Thank you to Troy Gabrielson for putting together this peice.