Bluegrass FM signal in Washington, D.C., suburbs will go off air

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The new operators of Bluegrass Country, formerly a service of WAMU in Washington, D.C., say they were unable to reach a deal to keep the station on its FM signal.

As of June 21, Bluegrass Country will no longer air on 105.5 FM in the D.C. area, according to the Bluegrass Country Foundation. The nonprofit formed to continue the format after WAMU announced its intention to sell it last year. Bluegrass Country will continue to air on a WAMU HD signal.

The foundation was unable to reach a contract agreement with the owner of the frequency, Reston Translator, LLC, said Bluegrass Country Foundation President Jeff Ludin in a post on the organization’s website.

Ludin told Current that the service was on a month-to-month lease for use of the translator signal. The owner would not entertain longer-term offers by the organization to continue broadcasting and informed the foundation that the signal would be leased to another entity.

“We had no choice” but to end the FM broadcast, Ludin said.

The foundation is looking at other frequencies in the D.C. area, but none is currently available, Ludin said. WAMU had previously sold two translators airing Bluegrass Country.

Ludin said he is “a little bit” concerned about losing the FM frequency but said that a survey found two-thirds of Bluegrass Country’s audience already listens online or to the HD channel

The organization is working to convert FM listeners to HD and is considering subsidizing HD radios for its audience.

The organization is operating on an annual budget of about $300,000, Ludin said. And without the monthly cost of the FM frequency he believes there is enough money to operate for the rest of the year. The organization is operating on the American University-owned HD service for free this year and in subsequent years the yearly cost will be roughly what it was paying for a month of broadcast on the FM signal.

To remain a sustainable organization, Bluegrass Country is working on a grow sustaining membership and is selling yearlong sponsorship on its programs rather than sell individual ads.

“While the loss of 105.5 FM is frustrating, we remain in business and are committed to bringing you the bluegrass and roots music you love to hear,” he wrote.