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WMUK gets CPB grant for new digital transmitter

Nov. 16, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's National Public Radio station WMUK 102.1 FM has received a challenge grant of $75,000 from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to convert its analog transmitter and signal to digital.

Converting to a digital signal will improve the signal quality of the radio station, says Floyd Pientka, the station's general manager.

"It will be like going from the existing FM signal to CD quality," Pientka says. "The presence and definition of the sound will be enhanced, and there will be better signal coverage in the primary coverage area. There won't be the phenomenon of the signal gradually fading out. It ought to improve the reception for the majority of the listening audience."

Listeners will have to have a digital receiver to pick up the new digital signal, but the station also will continue to transmit in the current analog signal. So those who do not have a digital receiver can still listen to the station as they always have.

Those with digital receivers, including those now being installed in many new cars and trucks, also will see other advantages. Instead of showing the station's broadcast numbers, the radio will display the station's call letters and other text information, such as the name of the musical selection being played.

Down the road, the new transmitter also could allow for transmitting over two separate channels, one for news and information and one for music and entertainment, Pientka says.

The grant comes with a catch: WMUK must provide a $75,000 match to qualify for the award. The station also must modify its transmitter building to accommodate the additional cooling and security needs of the new equipment.

Despite the cost of matching the grant, the station is very happy to obtain the CPB funding, Pientka says.

"It is very fortunate that we got this grant now," he says. "Federal funds may not be available for a further round of such grants, especially given the needs of the Hurricane Katrina disaster."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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