WPR rolls back service expansion to northeast Wisconsin

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The University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents has returned a construction permit for a new Wisconsin Public Radio station in Niagara that would have extended the network’s reach to 39,000 additional people.

The license for WHAX 89.5 FM was surrendered due to lack of funding, according to Mike Crane, director of WPR. The network had counted on the discontinued Public Telecommunications Facilities Program to cover up to 75 percent of construction costs, estimated at $300,000.

PTFP shut down due to congressional budget cuts imposed in 2011. According to Crane, its disappearance was “a blow” to the new station project, which faced difficulties raising money in a rural, sparsely populated location.

Community radio organizers who won a permit to build a station on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques also struggled with the loss of PTFP, but they recently launched the service with outside fundraising assistance.

“It was a very difficult decision for us because we always wanted to expand service to everyone in the state,” said WPR’s Crane.

Returning the license allows the state network to continue with an upgrade to another signal, WHND 89.7 FM in Sister Bay. It won’t reach unserved listeners in Niagara but extends WPR service to tens of thousands more people, according to ECB technical manager Steve Bauder.

This article was first published in Current, July 22, 2013.

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