Rhode Island Public Radio transmits on one main (89.3) and three supplemental (88.1, 91.5 and 102.7) signals, seen in the map above. We are in the process of modifying 89.3 to significantly improve its coverage, and hope to have that done by late 2017 or early 2018.
(links below are to more detailed coverage maps for each signal)
- 88.1FM WELH in Providence and northern RI.
- 89.3FM WXNI in the South Coast of MA, and Narragansett Bay communities.
- 91.5FM WCVY in Coventry.
- 102.7FM WRNI in South County.
IMPROVE RADIO RECEPTION: BETTER RADIO!
Most car radios are already pretty good FM receivers, but if you don't have an HD Radio receiver we recommend getting one, if possible; Crutchfield is helpful here. Besides that both 89.3 and 102.7 transmit in HD, and thus can be heard in clear digital on an HD Radio receiver...in general HD Radio receivers are just better receivers, period. They have been filtering and better Digital Signal Processing (DSP) so they'll pick up analog FM stations better, too.
This is also true for in-home radios, although there aren't many HD Radio tabletop receivers available for sale these days; the Insignia NS-HDRAD2 at Best Buy ($50) is one of the only ones you can buy in a store, although others, like Sparc & Sangean models, are available online.
For portable radios, if you can find a portable HD Radio receiver, they're generally good receivers overall. I haven't tried the Sparc SHD-TX2 portable radio, but I have tried the Sparc SHD-BT1 tabletop radio and it's pretty good.
It's not HD, but I've also used the Radio Shack Digital AM/FM Pocket Radio (Catalog # 1201475) and for $30 it's surprisingly good, although it often takes a lot of fiddling with the orientation of the radio/antenna to get a clear signal. Unfortunately there are no Radio Shacks in Rhode Island anymore, but you can still buy it online.
IMPROVE RADIO RECEPTION: BETTER ANTENNA!
In general, don't replace your car radio antenna with an aftermarket antenna; most of them (like "Shark fins") sacrifice functionality for aesthetics.
However, replacing your home radio antenna is often a good idea! Many tabletop radios have poor-to-medium stock antennas, but many also allow you to connect an external antenna. Usually through an F connector (commonly called a "co-ax connector" or "cable TV connector") or through a pair of screw terminals and a "balun".
Do you have an old TV antenna on your roof? These are often VHF antennas and will work very well for FM as well. Rotate the antenna towards your preferred signal (use the handy site www.FMfool.com to find the direction/azimuth for your location) and connect the antenna to your radio's "external antenna" jack. Remember to connect the appropriate grounding wires for lightning protection.
Want to buy one of these outdoor antennas? You can find them at local electronics stores like A&J Distributor (no walk-in service, North Kingston, RI / 401-421-0991) or You-Do-It Electronics (40 Franklin St, Needham, MA / 781-449-1005). Ask for a "yagi" (YAH-gee) FM or VHF antenna. Don't get an antenna that's specifically for UHF - those are only for TV and are more common since the DTV migration of 2009. If you're not sure, look for it to say "VHF." If it does, you're good.
FM only antennas are getting increasingly difficult to find online, but as of October 2015, MCM Electronics has the Stellar Labs 30-2460 four-element yagi antenna for sale again.
Engineer's Tip: DIPLEXING! Got a DirecTV or Dish Network satellite dish, and want to add an FM antenna but don't want to run a second, unsightly coaxial cable? You can "diplex" the satellite TV signal and an FM antenna signal on the same coaxial cable. You'll need a pair of Diplexers such as the "Dual Diplexer Signal Combiner & Splitter" (scroll down a bit, they're $19.99 ea) at either end of the cable.
Does your radio seem to have no antenna? That usually means the antenna is the headphone cord (most portables) or the power cord (many clock radios). Adjust either cord to see if it improves reception. If the cord is balled up and shoved behind a table or countertop, that will negatively impact reception.
If an outdoor antenna is impractical, perhaps a Terk Technologies FM+ antenna may be helpful. We've had reports from fellow public radio stations that this antenna is pretty good...for an indoor antenna (that's a big caveat, though), and has the advantage of being able to be table-mounted or wall-mounted. And it's pretty cheap (under $20) so it's an inexpensive experiment to see if it works in your situation.
Even a simple indoor "di-pole" (DIE-pole) antenna is better than nothing. It's two pieces of wire shaped like a "T", available at C.Crane and many other electronics outlets. Mount the antenna with the upper part of the "T" is horizontal and is as "broadside" (perpendicular) as possible to the transmitter you're trying to receive.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. RIPR used to be on a network of signals, now it's on 89.3FM? What about 88.1, 91.5 and 102.7?
A. RIPR purchased WUMD 89.3 from UMass Dartmouth in January 2017, and began broadcasting on 89.3 (now WXNI) on July 11, 2017. We hold an FCC "Construction Permit" to move 89.3 from Dartmouth to a much taller tower in Tiverton, roughly doubling the signal reach.
Read more from President/CEO/GM Torey Malatia about the Dartmouth site vs Tiverton site.
For the time being, RIPR will continue broadcasting on 88.1, 91.5 and 102.7FM. We may eventually re-evaluate how necessary these other signals are, but only after the Tiverton buildout of 89.3 is complete and a thorough analysis has been conducted.
Q. RIPR also used to be on 1290AM, what happened?
A. Rhode Island Public Radio has leased 1290 AM to Latino Public Radio, Rhode Island's Spanish-language public broadcaster, since October 2011.
Q. Why do I sometimes hear music instead of RIPR when I tune into 91.5 FM in the afternoon?
A. WCVY 91.5FM is owned by Coventry Public Radio, so they relay RIPR for most of the day. But from 2pm to 8pm on school days, they reserve the right to air programming by their students. On the weekends, school holidays and all summer long, you will hear Rhode Island Public Radio on 91.5 for the entire day.
Q. Why do I hear a sports talk show late at night on Friday/early Saturday morning on 88.1 FM?
A. RIPR leases 88.1 FM from the Wheeler School. As part of our agreement, the school's students can broadcast their own programming on the station: a sports talk show for up to three hours at midnight Friday night.
Q. When I switch from between different frequencies RIPR broadcasts on, the audio isn't always synchronized. Why is that?
A. There is roughly an eight second delay on 89.3 and 102.7's audio because they transmit in HD Radio. The nature of the system requires it: HD receivers tune to the analog signal first, buffer the digital signal for a few seconds, then the audio "blends" from analog to digital. Since the digital audio has a coding delay, the analog must also be time-delayed to synchronize it. Currently 91.5 is directly rebroadcasting 102.7 so it's delayed as well. 88.1 does not broadcast in HD Radio, so no delay.
Q. Didn't you used to be called "WRNI"? Or "RINPR"?
A. Yes, we changed our branding in October 2011 to "Rhode Island Public Radio" because since that time, we have been broadcasting across multiple frequencies, each with its own call letters (WELH, WCVY, WXNI and WRNI-FM). One of our signals is still, legally, "WRNI" but other than the FCC-required "station identification" at the top of every hour, we generally don't refer to ourselves that way; we use "RIPR" instead.
"RINPR" mostly came from our Twitter handle. At the time, there was another person who had @RIPR and @RINPR was the next best thing, although National Public Radio generally prefers that member stations do not use "NPR" in their own branding, so we try to stay away from it now. Fortunately the previous owner of @RIPR has graciously donated it to RIPR.
Q. I often hear one station completely overriding every other frequency on my radio. What can I do?
A. If you live close to an FM broadcast tower (Rehoboth near the Wheeler Farm, East Providence by the Henderson Bridge, anywhere on Neutaconakut Hill, etc) you might be experiencing "blanketing interference". The FM signals on a nearby tower are so strong at your location that they can overload your receiver, and the offending station shows up on many frequencies. This is normal physics and perfectly legal, albeit frustrating at times. The solution is to actually REDUCE the amount of signal going into your radio, to get it down to a point where the radio's tuner can handle it, and hopefully still have enough desired signal from RIPR to listen to. If you have an external antenna, try some -3dB or even -10dB attenuators (you can use more than one to add more attenuation). If your radio uses the power cord as its antenna, try balling it up and putting it behind a table/dresser...even wrapping it lightly in aluminum foil...or any orientation you can to reduce incoming signal.
Q. I had a weird time where another station from really far away was coming in like a local station, even overriding one of RIPR's signals! What was that?
This is called "tropospheric ducting", and it often happens when it's really hot out in the summer. A "channel" in the atmosphere can "carry" a FM signal from hundreds, even thousands, of miles away and then release it right over Rhode Island. These channels are highly unstable, usually lasting a few minutes, maybe an hour or two. There's actually a "Tropo Forecast" that shows likely conditions for ducting to occur.
Q. I just can't seem to get reliable radio reception no matter why I try, are there any options?
A. Yes, we have options for listening online, too! The top of every webpage of ripr.org has a grey bar with a "play" icon; tap that listen to our live webcast. We have a free app for iPhone/iPad and Android devices, too.
If you are a customer of Full Channel cable TV (Barrington, Warren & Bristol) you can hear the audio of RIPR on channel 799 of your television set.