Walk through the myriad Brazilian shops in downtown Framingham and you will undoubtedly hear WSRO 650, the local Portuguese-language radio station, coming in over the speakers.
Now, a year after the station’s signal strength was expanded to include Cambridge and Boston, it is planning to launch a new station on 1410 AM that will provide people in Boston with the same kind of original, grassroots community coverage that listeners in the Framingham area have come to expect from WSRO.
The new station is expected to go live by the first quarter of next year, according to Alex Langer, president of Langer Broadcasting Group LLC, which owns WSRO.
The company is opening a studio in Hyde Park and hiring three new employees.
Langer first bought the station in 1995, sold it, and then bought it back in 2005. It became a Portuguese language station shortly thereafter.
He said the idea of providing a source of local news and news from Brazil to the area’s growing Portuguese-speaking population came straight from the station’s listeners.
“I wish I could say I was brilliant, but it’s not true,” Langer said. “Portuguese-speaking people came in and said, ‘Hey, we want to be on your station.’ We were doing talk radio at the time. We were not making any money on talk radio. So it was easy. More Brazilians came in, and more came in, and more came in. All of a sudden, we were filled with Brazilian people, and I said, ‘Wow, we’re doing real radio.’ ”
‘The radio station connects us with Brazil. When you’re listening to it, it’s like you are in Brazil.’
Now Langer said the audience is big enough to support two stations airing separate broadcasts, targeted for their local market.
“This is niche programming,” Langer said. “This is as niche as it gets. . . They can’t get that from satellite. They can’t get what’s going on in the local community immediately, and that’s what we have.”
Zach Chaves, head chef and owner of Extravaganza Brazilian American Pizza & Bar in Framingham, is both a listener and an advertiser. He can rattle off the programming schedule from memory.
“The morning show at 7 — everyone listens to that on the way to work,” said Chaves “The response for business owners is really good, especially if you’re advertising for Brazilians. There’s lawyers, attorneys, insurance companies, restaurants” who are looking to reach a Brazilian client base, and so advertise on WSRO or sponsor programs.
And Chaves said, WSRO provides news from home.
“Brazil — it’s in our soul. We always want to hear about Brazil,’’ he said. “The radio station connects us with Brazil. When you’re listening to it, it’s like you are in Brazil.”
Ilma Paixão, general manager at WSRO, said she thinks there is a need for station’s kind of radio in Boston. “I know it’s not easy, but we’ve been doing it for eight years,” said Paixão, who is keeping an open mind in terms of programming.
She added that Framingham’s station won’t be going anywhere. “This will be our main studio, but we’re planning to have a studio and office in Boston, and hire three staff members,” she said. “We’re going to stay and grow.”
Paixão said WSRO gives a voice to the Brazilian community’s opinions, thoughts, and ideals, while also providing the local residents with resources as they make their way in America. That includes encouraging newcomers to become US citizens, and to get involved in local government.
“Seven Town Meeting members are Brazilian, which we’ve never had before,” Paixão said. “The immigrants have to get involved. . . We have obligations to be involved and contribute.”
According to the US Census Bureau’s 2008 Community Survey, immigrants made up about a quarter of Framingham’s population, with the largest group being from Brazil. A study by the Mauricio Gaston Institute at University of Massachusetts Boston reported in 2008 that Framingham had a Brazilian population of 8,454.
Langer estimated that between 5,000 to 10,000 listeners tune into WSRO every day, while its online video service had more than 1 million streams viewed in the past year.
Among WSRO’s hosts and deejays is Sergio Resende, who has the talk show “Vem Viver” Monday through Friday from noon to 1 p.m. Resende’s show covers everything from news and sports to reading classified ads.
Resende, 28, has hosted “Vem Viver” for six years, after taking it over from his father and radio-hosting mentor, Maestro Wando Resende.
“Our program, our focus is on helping the community on anything and any how,” Resende said. “We tell them how to get the best products in the area, how to get the best health insurance, how to get help if they need it.”
According to Resende, the most popular topic on his show is immigration reform. “We probably talk about immigration every day,” he said. “Everybody is waiting for that to happen so badly. . . If Obama speaks, we talk about it.”
WSRO, Resende said, helps listeners feel closer to Brazil.
“It’s a language that they speak,’’ said Resende. “Unfortunately, many of them do not speak English. It’s a concern we bring to the show. We know that in order to become legal one day you’re going to need to speak at least some English.”John Swinconeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.