Clearer sound now and more channels to come via digital radio
SPRINGFIELD – WUIS 91.9-WIPA 89.3, the local affiliate of National Public Radio at the University of Illinois at Springfield, officially launched its digital signal today in the presence of dozens of people who had donated to the effort, becoming the first radio station in Springfield to offer clearer sound and the possibility of more than one program stream.
The $220,000 digital conversion was made possible by gifts from 242 listeners – totaling nearly $62,000 – as well as equipment donated thanks to UIS alum and former Orban executive Phil Zeni of Decatur. The local match enabled the station to receive $85,000 for the project from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
HD Radio, which stands for "hybrid digital" radio, features the ability to broadcast multiple channels and wireless data services.
"Even though years ago people were skeptical that anyone would listen to FM radio, FM ended up revolutionizing AM listening," said Bill Wheelhouse, WUIS general manager. "In the same way, we expect digital to be the wave of the future. We already have some early adopters enjoying the sound quality that we can offer on digital."
Digital radio eliminates static or audio cut-outs; delivers true surround sound, especially exciting for music lovers; and gives WUIS the ability to send other text information, such as titles and artist names, to the receiver.
"The other major factor in our decision to go digital now was the chance to offer more than one channel," explained Wheelhouse. "We'll be able to offer more public radio programs and vary the time of day you hear news or music. And we'll be able to experiment a bit more with other channels. We're working on a venture where a channel will be a teaching ground for UIS students interested in our style of journalism and presentation, with a youthful edge."
Listeners to WUIS 91.9 or WIPA 89.3 will continue to hear their favorite programs as they always have on the station's analog signal, which will run simultaneously.
To enjoy the improved signal in WUIS' listening area, listeners must have an HD radio, which are available at several stores in central Illinois and are being rolled out in vehicles over the next few years, starting with certain models of BMWs. "Prices for the receivers are continuing to drop, as more manufacturers are entering the market," said Wheelhouse.
"It is not only the mission but also the inherent nature of a university to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and innovation in general," said UIS Chancellor Richard D. Ringeisen. "This digital conversion is an important milestone for WUIS and the university. I'm especially excited about the learning possibilities for our students interested in journalism and broadcasting."
"We could not have made this step without the support of our membership and the listeners who rely on us every day," said Wheelhouse. "I'm very proud of what we've accomplished together, and look forward to the many capabilities HD radio offers us in the future to better serve central and west central Illinois."
Wheelhouse credited the station's former General Manager Brad Swanson and current News Director Rich Bradley, who also served as interim general manager, with putting WUIS on the road to digital and doing the early legwork. He also recognized Jiffy Johnson, former development director, for her efforts at garnering public support for the project.
WUIS-WIPA is a listener-supported public radio service of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Springfield. WUIS' mission is to satisfy a curious, societally engaged audience through programming and community outreach. For more information, to listen, for a list of NPR-approved digital receivers, or for the program schedule, visit www.wuis.org.