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Chicago’s Latino community radio station Radio Arte up for sale

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In a scenario that’s becoming too familiar to Radio Survivor readers, the Chicago-based Latino community radio station Radio Arte is now up for sale by its parent organization, the National Museum of Mexican Art. In fiscal year 2009 the museum reported a deficit of $677,121, and according to President Carlos Tortolero the museum has been unable to obtain loans to finance its entire operation. The museum is also selling the building that houses the station.

Radio Arte, WRTE, has been on the air for fourteen years, providing an opportunity for youth in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood to learn broadcasting, in addition to airing social justice programming. At a meeting with station volunteers, Tortolero said that the museum’s objective is still to maintain its programming. A group of stations volunteers are looking to form a cooperative to buy the license and maintain the station’s operations.

According to Chicago public station WBEZ, its parent organization, Chicago Public Media, has been meeting in discussions to buy Radio Arte’s license. The report says nothing more about the possibility. At question is if CPM bought the license would it maintain Radio Arte’s current programming schedule or look to merge operations with its experimental Vocalo service which broadcasts from a transmitter outside of Chicago just over the state line in Indiana. Originally conceived of as a station airing all listener-contributed programming, Vocalo recently underwent a makeover adding daily drive-time hosts. Vocalo has been a thorny issue for CPM in part due to low listenership, which stems from having a signal that does not cover much of the north side of Chicago. Radio Arte’s transmitter located in Chicago’s near South Side would provide a little better coverage, even though it is only licensed for 73 watts.

For all intents and purposes Radio Arte is the city of Chicago’s only true community radio station that isn’t affiliated with a college or university, and therefore more of a hybrid college/community station. It is all the more unique because of its focus on Chicago’s large Latino population. Any significant change in programming brought on by a station sale would represent a real loss for the city.

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