Web radio station streaming programs geared to children

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The plugged-in generation of kids and their parents have a new option -- iQ Kids Radio, an online radio site that aims to entertain and educate young listeners, is now live.

The channel, at www.iqkidsradio.org, is a collaboration between WQED Multimedia and SLB Radio Productions Inc., which produces the weekly "Saturday Light Brigade" radio show.

The commercial-free iQ Kids audio stream, which launched in January, is designed to give kids age 10 and younger an alternative to mainstream Top 40 music formats and Radio Disney, a commercial format for children that airs on WDDZ-AM. There are few other choices for local kids other than "Saturday Light Brigade."

"For us this venture is about filling a deep need for children to have educational, commercial-free, family friendly listening opportunities," said Jennifer Stancil, WQED Multimedia executive director of educational partnerships. "We don't feel that the marketplace has enough for kids -- things that are imaginative and also expose them to a variety of different types of music."

Initially, iQ Kids Radio will stream one day a week on Saturdays -- from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday. The schedule is a mix of music and entertainment from dance music to educational features to lullabies that's designed to be a family companion throughout the day. The schedule:

• "Sweet Dreams" -- Classical music (midnight to 6 a.m.).

• "The Saturday Light Brigade" -- The long-running syndicated family program that airs locally on WRCT-FM (88.3) and other public stations throughout the region (6 a.m. to noon).

• "Music & Family Fun" -- (noon to 4 p.m.).

• "Let's Learn" -- Songs and stories designed to teach kids about science, math and the world around them (4 to 8 p.m.).

• "DJ Daddy Dance Party -- Family dance music (8 to 9 p.m.).

• "Bedtime Stories" (9 to 10 p.m.).

• "Nighty Night" -- Lullabies and stories (10 p.m. to midnight).

The goal is to expand to a 24/7 schedule, including on demand programs and podcasts and shows geared to older kids.

The service is free for now. During the six-month pilot program, producers will explore different business models and decide if it will remain a free service or a mix of free and paid content.

The project was launched with seed funding from The Junior League of Pittsburgh, Inc. Other funding comes from The Grable Foundation and the James McCandless Charitable Trust. The Junior League has taken on iQ Kids as a three-year signature project and will provide volunteer and administrative support, business strategy and event planning, along with $45,000 in financial support over the next three years.

The original programming will draw on some content from PBS, including music or other excerpts from shows such as "Sid the Science Kid," "Curious George" and "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood."

It also will draw on "SLB's" archives, including hours of recordings of kids performing or reading stories and essays they've written.

"Now we will be able to include them in iQ Kids Radio," said Larry Berger, executive director of SLB Radio and "Saturday Light Brigade" host. "The music library we have and the relationships with musicians, locally as well as internationally, help," Mr. Berger said. "The PBS content is really incredible. Being able to leverage those assets in different ways is exciting."

Kids have access to an overwhelming array of media choices, but "kids still get radio," Mr. Berger said. "There are skeptics out there who will say, 'Really, in the age of YouTube, why are you doing this?' Of course kids love YouTube also. But this intimate imaginative experience of listening to audio is something that still resonates really well with the kids we're programming to here, and with older kids that we hope to serve more as we grow."

The iQ Kids team is asking for listener feedback. Parents can register on the iQ Kids site for updates, and they're invited to leave feedback through a toll-free phone number, 1-855-323-KIDS (5437), or by email at wehearyou@iqkidsradio.org. "Our goals over the next six months are to hear from our listeners about what they like and what they want more of and give families the opportunity to listen to something that is rich and joyful for kids," Ms. Stancil said.

Listeners will find iQ Kids radio online at www.iqkidsradio.org, and mobile listeners can use the free Tunein Radio app for Android and iOS smartphones.


Adrian McCoy: amccoy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1865.


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