The words of James Joyce going into West Point homes over the airwaves. The poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge crackling through the speakers of a car in Columbus. The tall tales of Mark Twain heard at night across the prairie.
That is the vision of one Lowndes County man.
Chris Howard, a 52-year-old with an appreciation of the written word, wants to create a Golden Triangle radio station called “Classic Book Radio” that only broadcasts prerecorded readings of classic literature.
“No rap music, no country western, no Rush Limbaugh, just people reading,” is what his station’s website says.
“Literacy is the goal,” Howard says.
It’s a novel idea — Howard believes it might be the first of its kind — and it might happen.
He has business cards. He has a live frequency: 95.5. He has call-letters: WMFH-LP. He’s even found an online database — www.librivox.org — with more than 7,000 audio books that are in the public domain. He’s establishing the station as a non-profit. And in January he received a license from the Federal Communications Commission that allows him to operate a low-power FM radio station.
What he needs now is sponsors.
Earlier this year, Howard began a fundraising campaign at Indiegogo, a crowd-funding website, that garnered him a little more than $1,000. He estimates that he needs $10,000 to purchase the equipment — transmitter, emergency broadcast box, etc. — that will enable him to actually pump literature into the airwaves.
The plan is to base the radio station out of his Mount Ariery Church Road home just outside of Columbus. Howard would do the work alone, around his day job as a database administrator.
He’s been into amateur radio since his college days at Iowa State University. It’s something he picked up from his father. He’s quick to admit that he’s simply an average reader with a big interest in radio.
Still, he thinks there is a place for “Classic Book Radio.”
For people who are illiterate, the benefits are obvious. Then there are younger generations who live a fast-paced lifestyle who rarely slow down enough to read. The station could potentially reach them and get them interested in classic literature and just reading itself, Howard said. Then there are people who already read. Howard said they would benefit because maybe one of the station’s broadcast could introduce them to an author or story they would not otherwise read.
If things work out and the station goes live, Howard has already got the first novel to be broadcast picked out: “Pride and Prejudice,” by Jane Austen.
Classic Book Radio is online at wmfh-lp.org.
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.