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Rhode Island Public Radio

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Title: Rhode Island Public Radio  
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Subject: WMVY, Here and Now (Boston), Media in Providence metropolitan area
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Rhode Island Public Radio

Rhode Island Public Radio
Broadcast area Rhode Island
Branding Rhode Island Public Radio
Slogan Are You Listening?
Frequency see table in article
First air date May 1, 1998 (service, on 1290 AM)
Format News/talk
ERP see table in article
HAAT see table in article
Class A (all stations)
Facility ID see table in article
Transmitter coordinates see table in article
Callsign meaning see table in article
Former callsigns see table in article
Affiliations NPR
Public Radio International
American Public Media
Owner Rhode Island Public Radio
Sister stations WRNI
Webcast Listen Live

Rhode Island Public Radio is the NPR member radio network for the state of Rhode Island. Its studios are located in the historic Union Station in downtown Providence. The network airs a format of news and talk from NPR.


In the 1990s, a group of Rhode Islanders formed the Foundation for Ocean State Public Radio in order to bring a local public radio station to the state. At the time, Rhode Island was the only state in New England (traditionally one of the bedrocks of support for NPR) and one of only two in the entire country (the other being Delaware) that did not have a full-service NPR station within its borders. Most of the state got at least a grade B signal from Boston's WGBH-FM (with Providence itself receiving a city-grade signal) and WBUR. After a few years of looking, they found a partner in Boston University, owner of WBUR. BU agreed to buy WRCP (1290 AM), a 5,000-watt station that had been on the air since 1947, for $1.9 million; the foundation conducted a statewide drive to help raise the funds. For many years, 1290 AM had been known as WICE, but switched to Portuguese programming as WRCP in 1983.

On May 1, 1998; WRCP's calls officially changed to WRNI, and the license was officially transferred to the WRNI Foundation, a separate fundraising group set up by WBUR to handle local underwriting.

Even though BU doubled WRNI's transmission power to 10,000 watts, its signal was not strong enough to reach the southern and western portion of the state (though it provides a city-grade signal to Newport, southern Rhode Island's biggest city). Accordingly, in 1999, BU bought WERI (1230 AM) in Westerly, which had been on the air since 1949. BU changed WERI's calls to WXNI, and made it a full-time satellite of WRNI. The station brought a city-grade NPR signal to southern Rhode Island for the first time ever.

BU and WBUR had very big plans for WRNI at first. It moved WRNI from its longtime studio on Douglas Avenue to a state-of-the-art facility at Union Station. It also started a daily two-hour local news magazine, One Union Station. [1] It also had plans to set up a third station to fill the gaps in WXNI's 1,000-watt signal.[2] However, budget problems brought on by the September 11, 2001 attacks forced One Union Station's cancellation. It was replaced with a one-hour news magazine that was canceled in 2004. At that point, WRNI's local operations were significantly cut back, with most of the station's staff either laid off or transferred to Boston. As a result, WRNI's schedule became almost identical to that of WBUR.

Controversy over sale

On September 17, 2004, with no advance warning, WBUR Group general manager Jane Christo announced that WRNI and WXNI were being put on the market. She wouldn't give any specifics, only saying that it was time for Rhode Islanders to buy the stations if they wanted to keep NPR programming in the state.[1] Indeed, WBUR claimed that it never intended to operate WRNI on a long-term basis, and had only intended to help develop it into a self-sustaining service.[2]

The reaction in Rhode Island was, not surprisingly, hostile. In an editorial, The Providence Journal said that WBUR had made numerous long-term commitments to WRNI. The Journal claimed that if the station's local backers had to buy WRNI, it would be tantamount to buying the station twice.[3]

The announcement led state attorney general Patrick Lynch to open an investigation into WBUR and WRNI.[4]

On September 27, BU interim president Aram Chobanian delayed the sale of WRNI and WXNI, citing concerns raised by both Lynch and Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri. Memos obtained by The Boston Globe revealed that WBUR felt the Rhode Island stations were money bleeders, and had decided to either lease or sell the stations at the earliest opportunity.[5] The furor over the WRNI sale was one factor in Christo's resignation almost a month later.[6]

In June 2005, BU took WRNI and WXNI off the market. It promised to hire a full-time general manager based in Providence, and also stepped up local news coverage. As a result, Lynch closed his investigation in November 2006.[4]

On March 21, 2007, WBUR announced that it was selling WRNI to Rhode Island Public Radio—formerly the Foundation for Ocean State Public Radio—for $2 million. Rhode Island Public Radio also announced it was buying WAKX (102.7 FM) in Narragansett Pier from Davidson Media to serve as a repeater for WRNI in southern Rhode Island.[7] WAKX, which signed on in 1989, had been a smooth jazz station (though its call letters referred to a former simulcast of WWKX, which lasted from 1997 to 2005). As part of the sale agreement, BU will continue to provide engineering and programming assistance to RIPR for five years.

RIPR officially took control of WAKX on May 17, 2007; changing the calls to WRNI-FM. The addition of WRNI-FM made WXNI redundant, and BU has sold that station separately to Diponti Communications, which renamed it WBLQ. RIPR took control of WRNI on September 1, 2008.

RIPR registered the domain name on February 13, 2007; the site was live as of June 2007.

During the summer and fall of 2011, RIPR began to expand WRNI into a statewide network; that July, it began to provide programming to WCVY, which has operated from Coventry High School since 1978, allowing the station to remain on the air full-time (previously, it only operated from 2–8 p.m. on school days, sharing time with now-defunct religious station WRJI; WCVY still airs its own programming during that time period),[8] and on October 8, the network's flagship signal in Providence moved from 1290 AM to WELH (88.1 FM), owned by The Wheeler School, completing RIPR's move from AM to FM. WELH had aired programming from The Wheeler School and other groups since 1995; some of this programming, including Wheeler's student-run programming and Brown Student Radio, moved to Internet radio, while Latino Public Radio's Spanish-language public radio programming moved from a part-time clearance on WELH to full-time broadcasting on RIPR's original 1290 AM frequency.[9][10] At the same time, RIPR rebranded the network from "WRNI" to "Rhode Island Public Radio".


Station Frequency City First air date ERP HAAT Facility ID Coordinates Call Sign Meaning Former Call Signs Owner
88.1 MHz Providence February 1995 4,000 watts 41 m (135 ft) 66656 51|26.7|N|71|19|5.6|W|type:landmark_scale:2000 name=WELH


WhEeLer ScHool The Wheeler School
WCVY1 91.5 MHz Coventry October 19, 1978[11] 200 watts2 11 m (36 ft) 14229 41|10|N|71|35|37|W|type:landmark_scale:2000 name=WCVY


CoVentrY Coventry Public Schools
WRNI-FM 102.7 MHz Narragansett Pier July 15, 1989[12] 6,000 watts 69 m (226 ft) 22874 25|27|N|71|28|38|W|type:landmark_scale:2000 name=WRNI-FM


derived from WRNI WPJB (1989–1997)
WAKX (1997–2007)
Rhode Island Public Radio


  • 1 WCVY airs its own programming out of Coventry High School from 2 to 8 p.m. on school days, with Rhode Island Public Radio programming airing at all other times.
  • 2 WCVY has a construction permit to boost its power to 6,000 watts.

The network's programming is also available on Full Channel Digital Cable channel 799.

HD Radio

Currently, WRNI-FM HD2 airs WMVY, the non-commercial internet stream of the former WMVY (92.7 on Martha's Vineyard which was sold to Boston University).[13]


External links

  • Query the FCC's FM station database for WELH
  • Radio-Locator information on WELH
  • Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WELH
  • Query the FCC's FM station database for WCVY
  • Radio-Locator information on WCVY
  • Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WCVY
  • Query the FCC's FM station database for WRNI
  • Radio-Locator information on WRNI
  • Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WRNI
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