© 2024 NPR Illinois
The Capital's Community & News Service
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UPDATE: NPR Illinois 89.3 WIPA Pittsfield operating at low power on emergency transmitter

transmitter building
Tim Boll
WIPA transmitter building

November 16, 2023 - WIPA has been operating for weeks on low power from the emergency transmitter NPR Distribution shipped to NPR Illinois. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted a Special Temporary Authority (STA) to operate WIPA at reduced power through May 14, 2024.

In the meantime, NPR Illinois applied for a Next Generation Warning System (NGWS) grant for just over $300,000 The grant would pay for a new transmitter and other updates to the WIPA transmission chain so emergency alerts and regular transmissions are reliable with contemporary equipment. Grant applications closed November 8. It is being administered through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) .

Additionally, NPR Illinois has purchased a mobile transmitter for approximately $6,000, like the emergency one NPR Distribution has provided. This allows NPR's temporary rental to be returned and NPR Illinois will have backup we can use at WIPA and WUIS towers ready.

September 20, 2023 - The emergency transmitter from NPR Distribution arrived Monday. The tech team is working this week to connect and test it. When complete, a low power service will return to the WIPA signal. Work continues to find funding for a new transmitter for WIPA.

September 13, 2023 - The tower crew made it out Friday, September 8 and tested the transmission cable and antenna. No issues were diagnosed. Tim Boll, NPR Illinois chief engineer, then went to restart the transmitter and it will not restart. The transmitter is over 30 years old and well past life expectancy.

Fortunately, Radio World covered the WIPA outage and engineers at NPR Distribution read it. They contacted NPR Illinois to let us know they had a portable, emergency transmitter available they could ship to us to use until we can repair/replace the WIPA transmitter. This temporary measure will bring back a lower power service from WIPA next week if all goes well. NPR uses these portable transmitters to help stations that have been impacted in emergencies and severe weather. Another great service donors have built through their support of their network member station.

Early estimates are that replacing the transmitter and other parts of the audio chain at WIPA may cost near $300,000. We are looking at potential sources for these costs. One timely option may be the CPB NGWS grant (Next Generation Warning System). We are actively preparing an application.

FCC Special Temporary Authority (STA) to permit FM Radio Station WIPA to remain silent.

You may have noticed silence when you’ve tuned into 89.3 FM recently.

We haven’t been able to diagnose the problem from the ground. There clearly is an issue with the Griggsville transmission. We have contacted a crew to assess the antenna and transmission line on the tower to let us know what’s going on with the 89.3 FM signal.

Unfortunately, it takes a specialized crew to climb that 500-foot tower. Those crews are in high demand and they are not local, so we have to wait until they have the time and capacity to travel to us.

We hoped the crew would be here this week, but due to weather affecting their prior commitments, that did not happen. We are now scheduled to have the tower assessed the week of September 8.

These technical issues are frustrating, primarily because we want to keep you informed. You depend on the reporting and programming you hear on 89.3, and we are working hard to get back on the air.

As we work to fix the problem, please listen to our web stream at nprillinois.org. If you’re driving, try to tune into 91.9 FM to catch the Springfield-based signal.

Please reach out if I can answer any questions or concerns at engage@nprillinois.org or call 217-206-6403. Thank you for using NPR Illinois and for your patience.

Randy Eccles is thrilled to be talking with community members and joining them in becoming informed citizenry. Please reach out at randy.eccles@nprillinois.org.
Related Stories