2007-05-17 / News

NPR available to Jamestown listeners starting today

Jamestown fans of National Public Radio will finally get to hear the programming without leaving Conanicut Island.

From Newport to Narragansett, from Warwick to Westerly, the powerful voices of Rhode Island's first National Public Radio (NPR) station can be heard across southern Rhode Island beginning today - Thursday, May 17 - when WAKX 102.7 FM begins broadcasting the programming of Providence based WRNI 1290 AM.

"It's taken a long time, too long for southern Rhode Islanders to share in the bounty," admits WRNI General Manager Joseph O'Connor, who began searching for a way to broadcast a strong signal to southern Rhode Island almost from the day he was hired to run the station 11 months ago.

Before Thursday, the WRNI broadcast could only be reliably heard in about two-thirds of northern Rhode Island and through a "repeater" station in Westerly. Everywhere else the signal was either spotty or non-existent.

"This, of course, is opposite of the goals of public radio," notes O'Connor. "Like the excellent local newspapers that circulate throughout Rhode Island, we run stories that get everyone talking about issues of the day, whether it's the war in Iraq, state nursing home laws, or tourism on Aquidneck Island. People need to be able to turn on the radio and find us there. Southern Rhode Islanders have been left out of the party, until now."

The problem was solved only last month when, in a quick turn of events, the owners of WAKX in Narragansett agreed to sell the station to Rhode Island Public Radio, an independent nonprofit organization that has also negotiated to buy the station license of WRNI itself from Boston University. Rhode Island was the last state in the nation to have an NPR station. The purchase of WAKX was made possible by a loan by The Rhode Island Foundation. The Westerly station, WXNI, will eventually be sold since it is no longer necessary.

O'Connor promised that southern Rhode Islanders unfamiliar with National Public Radio and WRNI "can expect a treat".

"Give us a week and I promise you that you'll become lifelong listeners. Not only is this the most informative radio on the air, it's the most entertaining." O'Connor referred to such landmark shows as "NPR's Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," daily programs on topical issues; "Marketplace," perhaps radio's finest broadcast of business news; and Terry Gross' interview show "Fresh Air," but also wonderfully quirky shows like Bill Littlefield's sports show "Only A Game," "Car Talk," and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," a popular quiz show.

WRNI has also pioneered local broadcasts of Trinity Repertory Theatre and the "This I Believe" series of heartfelt essays by Rhode Islanders.

"And can I mention that we do this without commercials," adds O'Connor, although he acknowledges that he hopes that the stations will add another 100,000 listeners and supporters from southern Rhode Island as a result of the signal expansion.

"We do count on your support to bring excellent programming to your homes," he concludes.

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