September 20, 2011 | 11:15am
UPDATE: Yes, the new 101.9 FM signal is weak and not available everywhere in Palm Beach County. Unfortunately, there's not much the station can do about it. Read more after the jump.
Sept.14-- Static, fuzz, then the sweet sound of a geeky story about teenaged driving. Moments later, an even dorkier story about the Greek debt crisis. Ah, NPR, how I've missed you.
Today West Palm Beach finally got the 24/7 NPR station it has long deserved. No more cursing the dial if you scramble into the car at 9:05 a.m. and get bombarded by some Mozart requiem. Now all you'll hear is the friendly, conversational chatter of Celeste Headlee or Steve Chiotakis dishing up the latest on the soaring unemployment rate or a random Virginia earthquake.
After the nonprofit Classical South Florida bought WXEL-FM from Barry University in May, the new owners decided to split the news from the Beethoven and Brahms programming. Perhaps they finally noticed that Ira Glass fans do not necessarily love symphonies?
The new all-news channel is called 101.9 WPBI News, while 90.7 FM is still called Classical South Florida and plays all music. Now you and your Great-Aunt Gertrude are happy.
Critics may gripe
because 101.9 broadcasts national and international news -- such as NPR's All Things Considered
and Public Radio International's The World
-- instead of local sports coverage and politics. But I'll take Kai Ryssdal over the Dwyer High lacrosse game any day.
Update Sept. 20: Since 101.9 FM went live last week, Classical South Florida has "been getting phone calls off the hook" about the weak signal, says the station's office manager, Scott Latta.
The new news station broadcasts from downtown West Palm Beach and has only a 250-watt signal, compared to the 30,000-watt signal for 90.7 FM. This means listeners anywhere north, west, and south of West Palm Beach may have trouble picking up the NPR news broadcasts (see comments below).
Unfortunately, Classical South Florida can't do much to fix the problem. Thanks to FCC regulations, the station is not allowed to make the signal stronger, Latta says. Apparently, there is another 101.9 FM station in a nearby county, and the public radio station here is not permitted to strengthen its signal and compete.
"We apologize for that," Latta says. "There's nothing really we can do."
Latta recommends upgrading to an HD radio and listening to the news on 90.7 HD2 or streaming 101.9 online.
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