WUSF celebrates 40 years

Forty years ago, a small radio station was born at USF. WUSF, the station with meager beginnings, has now grown into a community favorite with nearly a quarter of a million listeners, according to Arbitron data, a radio research consortium agency.

Now, as WUSF approaches its 40th birthday, the station plans to celebrate by bringing Bob Edwards to the Tampa Bay area. For about 25 years, Edwards has been the host of Morning Edition on National Public Radio. On Thursday, the radio station will feature Edwards at an afternoon reception in Sarasota and a dinner reception on Harbour Island. Edwards will speak about current events and give listeners the opportunity to ask questions regarding his show and experience.

NPR is one of the nation’s largest radio program providers for news and provides much of its programming for WUSF.

“It’s a formula that works very well here and serves a lot of people,” said Joanne Urofsky, general manager of WUSF.

The station begins each weekday with Morning Edition.

During its first years of existence, the station primarily offered campus news. It later switched to classical music and other formats, although most were eventually phased out. Now, the station’s musical programming stays true to its classical roots, coloring it only with jazz in the late evening or early morning hours.

“The classical music and jazz complement the programs the university has in music,” Urofsky said.

As the Tampa Bay area’s only classical music station, WUSF’s programming offers a mix of well-known composers, such as Bach, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Beethoven, as well as names not recognized by many, such as Liebestraume and Bazzini. Listeners can catch a glimpse of the day’s classical programming on the station’s Web site www.wusf.usf.edu/wusf-fm.

Offering listeners opportunities is nothing new to WUSF. For more than 25 years the station has provided the Radio Reading Service. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It’s a secondary audio program that allows print-impaired people to hear the reading of local newspapers and national magazines,” Urofsky said.

Users of this service must have a specially-tuned, low frequency radio receiver with a sub-carrier signal that picks up an analog band in order to take advantage of the radio program. Urofsky said qualified listeners are provided the receiver by the station upon request at no charge, or they may opt to tune in through the WUSF-TV Channel 16 SAP option.

Urofsky added that the station wants to provide listeners with additional services in the future.

On Feb. 13, WUSF became the country’s first public radio station to broadcast with a digital signal. This is a major accomplishment for radio stations both public and private, Urofsky said.

“It’s a tech issue we’d been following a long time,” Urofsky said. “(High Definition) radio may give us the ability to broadcast on two different streams of programming that you can hear.”

Although consumer models are just becoming available, when they are refined, the final result could indeed provide two streams of programming. For WUSF, that would mean one station for classical music and another for news, Urofsky said.

“So much good programming is available and we want to be able to give the community more,” Urofsky said.