Channel swapping in Rhode Island

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Rhode Island’s WRNI is negotiating a channel-swap deal that would bring its NPR News to the FM dial on 88.1 MHz in Providence, a frequency that had been shared by Latino Public Radio, students at Brown University, and students of Wheeler, a private K-12 school adjacent to the Brown campus that owns the license. Brown Student Radio lost use of the channel early this month when Wheeler terminated its 14-year lease agreement, the Brown Daily Herald reported.

Under the proposed channel swap, which is being negotiated as three-way lease agreement, WRNI will take over 88.1 FM as its flagship channel for northern Rhode Island, and Latino Public Radio will expand into a full-time broadcast service on 1290 AM, which is now broadcasting WRNI’s NPR News service. Wheeler will continue its radio and broadcast curriculum for students, but their programming will be distributed as a web stream.

WRNI broadcasts to southern Rhode Island on two FM channels, 102.7 MHz in Narragansett Pier and 91.5 MHz in Coventry, according to the FCC’s database and an Aug. 16 statement from WRNI. If secured, the lease agreement will put WRNI on the FM reserved band in Providence, the most populated region of the state. President Joe O’Connor declined to comment until the agreement is signed.

The lease agreement is the second this summer to bring mainstream public radio programming to Rhode Island on channels that had been programmed by college students. Bryant University’s WJMF in Smithfield expects to begin simulcasts of WGBH’s 99.5 All Classical from Boston next month, according to Radio Survivor. WRNI vied to take over that channel as well.