Anyone listening to WAMU 88.5, the National Public Radio affiliate serving Northern Virginia, while driving though Berryville has probably noticed a very clear and powerful new radio signal operating at 88.7 on the FM dial. “Yeah, that would be us” said Reid Welliver, co-founder of Dead End Radio, Clarke County’s only local radio station. “I broadcast from an antennae on the roof of my house so the signal can be pretty strong if you’re driving by.”
Dead End Radio, founded by Welliver and fellow Clarke County High School junior Dylan Kitselman, has just passed its six month anniversary. “We’re really into all kinds of music and this is a way to share that with our community,” Welliver said on a recent “snow day” break from classes at Clarke County High School. Kitselman sees Dead End Radio as his one major achievement so far and hopes that it can be a spring board for musical and artistic development for the community.
Many listeners are pleasantly surprised by the breadth of selections that can be heard on Dead End Radio. On a recent evening the station’s playlist included country/western, jazz, swing and even experimental music, selections from Welliver’s and Kitselman’s personal music library of nearly 2000 tunes.
Dead End Radio operates unmanned 24 hours a day thanks to software automation work by Welliver and Kitselman. “The station has to be able to operate on its own because I’m a full-time student in school all day,” Welliver said. “I’m not a programmer so figuring out how to make everything come together is a continuing challenge.”
For many teens extra cash is often spent on downloading music. But Welliver’s dream was using his extra money to broadcast music. “I bought the transmitter and a wireless box with $200 that I got for my birthday,” Welliver said. “I already had a computer server so we decided to just put all of the music on it. The whole thing has been a real learning experience.” And so Dead End Radio was born.
Dead End Radio operates a not-for-profit broadcasting license under an FCC war-time provision allowing community stations to provide programming that furthers the public interest. The station license authorizes Welliver to broadcast “until all American troops are removed from foreign shores.”
Welliver’s drive and ambition are readily apparent as he describes his goals for his station. He thinks that it would be exciting to experiment with new broadcasting locations like high school classrooms and other Clarke County events. “Mr. Novak is a really great teacher and we’re thinking about how we could share some of his lecture materials with the community.” Welliver also plans to add live disc jockeys soon. “I’ve got some college friends that want to get involved who can run the station during the day.” Welliver sees Dead End expanding from its current “all music” format to include other services like agricultural news supplied from the local Future Farmers of America chapter.
But what about station’s interference with NPR? Welliver has plans for solving the station’s bleed-over problem by relocating Dead End’s antennae to a higher radio tower located somewhere else in the county. Moving the antennae will not only reduce local interference, but will potentially reach a wider area for Dead End listeners. Even so, making the hardware changes will require a complex signal relay from Welliver’s home-based server to the remote antennae using a HAM radio frequency. When asked if he knows anything about signal relays Welliver paused for a moment then replied,“Not really but we’ll figure it out.”