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On the air: Local internet radio station gets its FM license

Bill DeYoung

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Former Valpak president Joe Bourdow is the founder and owner of Radio St. Pete. Photo: Kelly Nash Photography (and thanks to Green Bench Monthly)

Radio St. Pete is on the air at last.

Fans of internet audio are already familiar with Radio St. Pete, which has been webcasting a mixture of local music, local news and event coverage and podcasts both local and national since 2013.

Monday afternoon, the Federal Communications Commission officially transferred the broadcasting license for 96.7 FM to Radio St. Pete.

Most internet radio stations began as broadcast entities, setting up the online element as computers, smartphones and other devices became dominant in our lives.

Radio St. Pete founder Joe Bourdow did it the other way around.

“According to the research out there, well over 90 percent of the people in this country still listen to FM radio during the week at some point,” said the former president of Valpak, who’s currently a managing partner at Premier Franchise Advisors LLC. “The only question, really, is how long the runway for over-the-air broadcasting really is.”

In other words, how long will FM – even hyper-local stations like Radio St. Pete – last?

“In my opinion,” Bourdow said, “until internet streaming is easy and simple to enjoy in your car, I think over-the-air radio is going to continue, and it may continue even after that.”

Radio St. Pete is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a 10-member board and an all volunteer staff. Its FCC license is non-commercial and educational, which means it has underwriters instead of advertisers, and a certain percentage of the programming has to be of the public affairs variety.

The station has a massive catalog of available podcasts, of all varieties, including St. Pete X, The Catalyst Sessions and others from the Catalyst archives. It broadcasts the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association’s Monday Night Jazz Hour, and five-hour blocks of jazz every weekday morning.

The station has also connected with PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, with its syndicated radio programs Acoustic Café, Folk Alley, WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour and others. 

“What we are, essentially, is a locally-based platform for audio streaming, with three streams and a podcast distribution platform. And, now, an FM radio station.

“I think our platform introduces listeners to podcasts that they might not otherwise hear down the line or know about. And then they begin to download it. The value proposition for podcasters, to be a part of this, is that while you can download their podcast directly you first have to know about it and be introduced to it.”

Bourdow, who said he got the broadcasting bug as a college student in Virginia and never really lost it, began the internet version of Radio St. Pete as a hobby eight years ago.

“One morning, I literally woke up and said ‘You know what we need? We need a Radio St. Pete. And I’m going to do it.’

“There wasn’t any business plan. I just figured out how to turn it on, and it’s evolved ever since.”

His goals include sustainability, both the operational and financial varieties. “We’ll be trying to raise money,” he explained. “And we’re going to try and become more and more visible and more and more relevant in the community.”

Bourdow said his model is similar to that of WUSF, the bay area’s public radio station. And there are, to be sure, elements the Tampa-based community station WMNF.

Although he has no intention of copying either.

“We are St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and the beaches, with an emphasis on downtown St. Petersburg,” he said. “So post-Covid, our focus is always going to be coverage of live events and festivals – we’ll be out there live just like we were before. But we won’t be going to Tampa very often.”

Radio St. Pete weekly schedule

Radio St. Pete website (scroll down for weekly schedule)

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2 Comments
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  1. Avatar

    Joe Miano

    March 4, 2021at12:33 am

    More than 50 years ago, Joe was the station manager for WTJU at the University of Virginia, and a very good one, too. What may be lost in the sands of time is how melodic his radio voice was. WTJU had a very unusual format- half classical music, half progressive rock. Joe and the program director, Mike Leach, had to select the albums from which the DJs determined what to play. There were no playlists at “Tudge”. Each week the would receive dozens and dozens of new albums. How do you guys know what to keep and what to throw away?, some asked. Joe’s reply was classic, “If we don’t like it, we keep it.” I have to listen to the stream now to see what Radio St. Pete will play. I suspect that there will be enough Sinatra.

  2. Avatar

    WVET The Voice of Veterans

    March 4, 2021at10:17 am

    WVET The wvetonlineradio.com Voice of Veterans. My name Keith Winslow 727 280-4779 I would like to add a radio show to your program schedule in support for this this growing Veterans community. I also been an FCC licensed on air personality for many years and a resident of St Petersburg for 8 years. Veterans Radio at your service. Please give me a call. Thanks

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