Rhode Island Public Radio is a non-profit community institution of independent journalism, but a very young one. It was established 20 years ago to bring to our state news programming produced by respected national and international organizations like NPR and BBC. Such radio broadcasting was readily available over the air in every state but Delaware and ours.
Over time, RIPR built a newsroom of five excellent, award-winning journalists through support from donors and foundations like Rhode Island Foundation, Robertson Foundation, and the Providence Journal Foundation among others.
But establishing a broadcast service at the turn of the millennium, when the radio spectrum is packed with existing stations, has been a massive challenge for RIPR.
At first relegated to broadcasting on the AM band, the institution slowly moved to a troika of low powered signals on the FM band. Of these, RIPR owns one: 102.7 FM; the other two are leased from educational owners: 88.1 FM from the Wheeler School, and 91.5 FM from Coventry Public Schools. Because of their low power, these three stations provide inadequate coverage of Rhode Island and the East Bay.
Our purchase of 89.3 FM from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is a solution long demanded of us by Rhode Island residents. Should this be approved by the FCC, we will move the transmission location from North Dartmouth southwest, across the border into Rhode Island. Once relocated, 89.3 FM will have reach with clarity to the major population centers of Rhode Island while still providing service to adjacent South Coast communities. Having this coverage will enable us to build our local journalism output, knowing that it will have impact, relevance, and stable-signal accessibility to 900,000 potential listeners in the state alone. Currently RIPR reaches, sporadically, a population of 680,000 potential listeners in the Ocean State.
The dollars to pay for these efforts - our purchase of a license, the relocation of 89.3 FM into our state, creating more local, primary-sourced reporting, discussion, and debate - all those dollars will come directly from individual donors. We are independently owned and not associated with any colleges or public television. We receive no state funding whatsoever and will not seek state funding for this expansion. Some money for our annual operations comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but none of it will be applied to these advancement initiatives. Every penny to add reporters, expand local content and acquire the signal will be raised in a special campaign and will be donated by local citizens and foundations over a three-year period.
Our relationship with University of Massachusetts Dartmouth allows us to mobilize a separate reporter pool under our editorial direction for stories about South Coast Communities and to work with faculty and students on digital projects from polling to interactive policy solutions.
The current service on 89.3 FM, WUMD radio, will continue unchanged as an internet station, providing students learning opportunities while reaching a new global audience.
In our view, the demand for local, independent journalism, directly accountable to our local citizens, has never been stronger. We see this change as vital, and we will work diligently to serve all in our coverage area with integrity.
President, CEO and General Manager
Rhode Island Public Radio