When independent radio producer Jay Allison settled in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, far from the steady signal of any National Public Radio station, he decided to do something about it. In 1992 he founded the Cape and Islands Community Public Radio [CICPR] organization and applied to the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] to obtain two public radio frequencies – one to cover the upper Cape and the Vineyard, and the other to reach Nantucket. He and his team had a vision of a non-commercial radio station on Cape Cod that would run NPR programming and also air stories of local and regional interest.
Allison saw the Cape, Vineyard and Nantucket as three very distinct communities, each with its own fierce identity. He wanted to celebrate their individuality but at the same time serve as a bridge to bring them together. With help from Pat Martin and Gregory Whitehead, WNAN (91.1) signed on March 15 of 2000, and WCAI followed on September 25 of the same year.
A print shop building on Water Street became the rental home of WCAI, and WNAN, and eventually WZAI, when WGBH bought a new signal to improve reception on the lower Cape. In 2010, WGBH bought the building as a permanent home for WCAI.
In 2000, Allison turned the founding organization CICPR into Atlantic Public Media, and with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and matching funds from WGBH, began experimenting with an artful approach to the design of the sound and schedule, including the Sonic IDs and Listener Line.
It took eight years of gathering community support and filling out applications, raising funds, and everything else it takes to create something new, but Allison achieved his vision and as head of Atlantic Public Media continues to influence the sound and feel of WCAI locally, and of public radio nationwide.
Atlantic Public Media’s larger mission is to foster the artistic expression of diverse voices in public broadcasting at a local, national, and international level. In these spheres, Atlantic Public Media has taken the lead in opening new paths for radio artists and citizens to create and share work.