Radio Station Expansion Increases Public Safety

James L. Seward

July 23, 2009

The Daily Star

By Denise Richardson

ONEONTA _ SUNY Oneonta's public-radio staff is working to broadcast beyond Oneonta and reach more of Otsego County, station and college administrators said Wednesday.

WUOW, the National Public Radio/Pacifica affiliate station at the State University College at Oneonta, has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission for a construction permit. It will change the two-year-old station from a low-power station broadcasting at 104.7 FM to a full-power station broadcasting at 88.5 FM.

``It's a big move for us,'' Gary Wickham, general manager of WUOW, said during a media conference at SUNY Oneonta on Wednesday. ``It's significant.''

Wickham said the change could go into effect in the fall, after a transmission site on Crumhorn or Hooker mountain in Milford is readied and the transmitter is removed from a box on campus and installed onto a tower. The low-power station, 104.7 FM, which reaches listeners in the city and town of Oneonta, will be phased out after a test period when both stations operate, he said.

At the media conference, college officials re-emphasized the ability of the station to broadcast emergency alerts via telephone from remote locations, a service that will reach a broader audience with the higher-power station.

The project draws on a previously announced $50,000 state grant secured by state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford.

Seward said a larger broadcast area will benefit the community by becoming ``a lifeline'' in an emergency, when communications are crucial.

``In an event of emergency, every second is vital,'' he said Wednesday during the media conference. ``This emergency system can save both time and lives.''

SUNY Oneonta began planning WUOW after the regional floods of 2006 with the goal of developing a community radio station with emergency broadcast capabilities, college officials said. Also, the station has the capability to run on generators, allowing it to continue to broadcast during power outages, officials said.

Lyle "Butch" Jones, Otsego County emergency services coordinator, said the expanded broadcast service will be ``another great resource to get information out.''

WUOW's current transmitter is on the SUNY Oneonta campus, Wickham said, and broadcasts reach listeners from the West End to the East End of Oneonta. With the stronger, full-power station, signals will reach about 36,000 listeners in Otsego County, he said. Along with a larger broadcast range will be opportunities for more coverage of county and town governments, he said.

WUOW broadcasts weather, national news and other programs, including ``Jazz Inspired'' and ``Bluegrass Review.'' Scheduled to air are ``You Bet Your Garden'' and "Earthbeat.''

The station also airs news reports from The Daily Star, locally produced music programs and community-oriented series, such as "Kitchen Table Conversations With Alan Donovan," which features interviews with local residents, coaches, artists and business owners.

Donovan, a former SUNY Oneonta president, said the station ``personalizes the local area.''

The broadcast station will remain at the campus and is supported by local businesses and organizations and individual donors. WUOW also provides live streaming at

Wickham said that as the listener base expands, so will genres of broadcasting programs. Already proposed are a business program with Donovan and a series about nonprofit organizations with SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski.

``It won't be long,'' Kleniewski said Wednesday. ``Be sure you tune in.''