Online radio station for children to start streaming next year
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Starting next year, one of the most underserved radio audiences -- children -- will have their own online-only station.
iQ Kids Radio is a joint effort between WQED Multimedia and SLB Radio Productions Inc.: the latter produces the weekly "Saturday Light Brigade" children's program heard Saturday mornings on WRCT-FM (88.3) and on other public radio stations throughout the region.
iQ Kids Radio is part of iQ: smartmedia, a WQED educational initiative that provides online resources including video, activities and games for kids, along with webinars for educators and caregivers.
The iQ Kids Radio channel will launch early in 2013. Initially, it will be an all-day stream on Saturdays, with the goal of increasing it to 24 hours a day. In the future, some of the streaming programming will be available on-demand as podcasts.
iQ Kids Radio will provide educational programming -- science, music appreciation, languages and more. It will create new original material, and draw on existing content from "Saturday Light Brigade," WQED and PBS.
The iQ Kids project dovetails with SLB's mission as well as WQED's educational mission. "We've been looking at different ways to amplify youth's voice. This is really consistent with what we want to do," said Larry Berger, executive director of SLB Radio Productions Inc.
SLB's role in the new venture will be to develop and shape the format and content for iQ Kids Radio, using similar programming techniques to those of "Saturday Light Brigade," which includes live performances, music, puzzles and games, and is designed for families to listen to together. IQ Kids will be produced at SLB's studios, which are housed in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
They'll also be able to draw on the library of PBS programming, using audio and music from some of the network's popular children's shows that air here on WQED.
Some programming will be by kids, for kids. WQED and EQT Corp. sponsor a writing contest in which kids write and record stories. These will air on iQ Kids Radio, as well as original material created by kids and recorded by SLB.
There also will be material for parents, such as parenting tips. "We want this to be a place where parents and children listen together and get something out of it together," said Jennifer Stancil, executive director of educational partnerships for WQED Multimedia.
The target audience will be ages 12 and younger, with the emphasis on programming for pre-K and early elementary school children. As it evolves, iQ Kids will expand with added channels for older kids.
The Junior League of Pittsburgh is providing $45,000 to launch the project and will serve as a founding partner. The Junior League chose iQ Kids as a three-year signature project, and will also provide administrative and volunteer support, business and event planning.
There's very little for kids on the radio. Besides "Saturday Light Brigade," there's Radio Disney on WDDZ-AM (1250,) a syndicated commercial music format aimed at tweens.
iQ Kids Radio is designed to help fill that void. "We're not doing as well as we could to give kids an educational radio choice," Ms. Stancil said.
"The biggest need is for a trusted space where kids and adults can listen to learn together and to be entertained together," Mr. Berger added. "Part of this includes programming that's free of strong commercial branding."
There are plenty of online platforms for this young media-saturated generation, but iQ Kids is focusing on audio alone -- a medium which helps develop imaginations. The slogan for iQ Kids radio is "Listen ... imaginatively."
With more young families owning smartphones, they're looking at mobile platforms as a way to keep young audiences connected wherever they are.
Although the online stream will be available to listeners anywhere, it will be geared to local audiences. "If we do our job correctly, we'll be able to feel localized and meaningful for our region, but able to distribute some content nationally," Ms. Stancil said. She said there's potential for other markets to become affiliates that would be able to carry some iQ Kids programming and drop in their own localized content.
"We're proud to have Pittsburgh be the launching point. The idea of having something develop here that can serve as a national or international model is something we're really excited about," Mr. Berger said.
People who sign up at the website iQkidsradio.org will receive updates on the new channel and public events connected with it before it launches. They're inviting parents to offer ideas and suggestions by email to: Wehearyou@iqkidsradio.org.
First Published July 4, 2012 12:00 am