Back on air
BRUNSWICK — A Bath man has rekindled an oldtime radio station to fire up “the theater of the mind” for Mid-coast listeners.
Jim Bleikamp, a Wall Street Journal radio news anchor for 12 years, powered up Radio 9 WCME last Wednesday from its studio in Fort Andross.He called it a dream come true, and said his vision for the station — 900 on the AM dial — is “local, local, local.”
“Three and a half years ago — in 2009 — I decided I wanted to own a radio station in Maine,” Bleikamp said this week.
Since then, he has lived here part time and recently settled in the north end of Bath.
“I don’t want to get too gooey about this, but there’s a spiritual element in this for me,” Bleikamp said. “I’ve been in radio all my life, since college. Even since childhood. I would listen to the radio and think that’s it. That’s what I want to do. It’s the most intimate media there is. It appeals to the imagination, to the theater of the mind.”
In March 2009, Bleikamp purchased what was then called WWBK from Bob Bittner. As soon as the sale was final in May 2009, Bleikamp changed the call letters to WCME.
“I really feel this is an opportunity that dropped from heaven. I not only bought a radio station, I bought a radio stati
on with a heritage,” Bleikamp said.
WCME, it turns out, is not just call letters and an underused frequency.
Beginning in 1955 and continuing through the early 1970s, WCME was the voice of Greater Brunswick, providing local coverage and independent broadcasts that included a morning talk show and community news.
That’s a format Bleikamp plans to revive as WCME evolves.
“Our identity will be shaped around the local services we provide. We don’t really believe it’s possible to be too small.
“If a dog or cat gets lost, we’ll put it on the air. That’s something radio stations used to do,” Bleikamp said.
“I’ll be doing most of the work. You’ll see me at school board meetings and at police scenes. We’ll do play-by-plays of local sports, particularly high school. We’ll be in this community, not holed up in a studio,” Bleikamp said.
Back in the heyday of WCME if news happened in the community, WCME’s reporters were on hand covering events live as they happened.
“A lot of people have forgotten what a local radio station can do for them. You think Facebook and Twitter makes local radio irrelevant, but what other medium is both mass-oriented and personal like radio? Like somebody talking to you one-on-one?” Bleikamp said.
He uses an analogy to illustrate his point.
“If you’re walking down Maine Street and you walk by two people you don’t know and you hear your name, you’re going to stop and try to hear what they’re saying. How can you ignore something, a radio station, that’s talking about something happening right outside your door?”
WCME reliably reaches dooryards in Brunswick, Bath, Topsham and Freeport. Bleikamp also said he could hear the station all the way to Saco on a recent trip south.
“People commuting from Mid-coast into Portland should be able to hear us all the way through,” he said.
Since WCME has only been on air since Oct. 17, what listeners hear at the moment is contemporary rock streamed from an Internet source. But that will soon change.
“We’ll be airing a morning show from 6 to 10 a.m. five days a week. Starting Thanksgiving Day, we’ll play Christmas music 24/7 til the end of the year,” Bleikamp said.
But he’s quick to qualify that Bing Crosby won’t get in the way of broadcasting local news in December.
“We’re open to suggestions from the community,” he said. “What do you want to hear?”
“A year from now, I hope a lot of people will have trouble imagining their community without our presence here,” Bleikamp said.
It’s what made WCME what it used to be and what Bleikamp hopes it will be once again.