What they don’t tell you about… being the program director of a radio station

By Asha Tompkins, Community Editor

What most people don’t know about being the program director of a community radio station is that it runs 24 hours a day without automation, meaning DJs are constantly on shift choosing the music. Jessica Lockhart, the program director of the USM community radio station, WMPG, keeps tabs on all of the DJs that produce the music, making sure that they follow the rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“I’m paying attention to the DJs at 1 a.m., as well as 4 a.m.,” said Lockhart. “I have this great opportunity to not just work a nine-to-five. I can really stay up late, don’t come in in the morning.”

Lockhart said that she has been unconventional her entire life and is used to juggling jobs together and working odd hours.

“I’ve been a volunteer at WMPG for 20 some years, but I got the program director job two and a half years ago,” she said.

Her favorite part of the job is interacting with the DJs and talk show hosts.

“Everybody here is really passionate and loves what they’re doing. A lot of them say that when they come to do their show, this is the best two hours during the week, so I get to interact with people who really want to be here,” Lockhart said.

She stated that it’s fun to try and “plan special programming.” She puts together specialized programs every day of the week while trying to keep in mind a big idea.

“‘How can we affect a change in our listeners in the community if we focus on, say, Women’s History Month, or Black History Month, or Veteran’s Day?’” said Lockhart. “It’s really cool to think up ‘okay, we do really cool programming here, but what can we do that’s a little different that will really catch our listener audience?”

Lockhart enjoys trying to figure out the addition of special programming and how it might affect the community, and considers it a fun challenge due to an important factor: nothing is automated.

“We’re completely different from commercial radio. Commercial radio is now a lot of automated programming, it’s about advertising, it’s about how they might bring in the most advertising dollars and play the same number-one-hits over and over throughout the day,” Lockhart said.

She stated that the community radio station both at USM and stations throughout the country involve the unique aspect of having freedom of speech. She doesn’t tell the DJs what to do or say. They choose the music, she makes sure they don’t “swear on air.”

“It’s an old model where the broadcast and airwaves belong to the people. Commercial radio and corporations have bought that up. We still have real people coming in and programming and talking to their fellow community members. I just make sure the programming schedule suits the needs of the listening audience. I’m in charge of all of those DJs.”

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