WRVO readies to double power, already seeing more listeners

National Public Radio affiliate WRVO continues to see larger numbers among in its ratings, with figures expected to grow when it more than doubles its signal strength to 50,000 watts next month.


Headquartered in Penfield Library on the SUNY Oswego campus, the station has come a long way since 1969 when it could barely reach the city of Oswego broadcasting at 10 watts.

“The light bulb in the studio ceiling had more power than our transmitter, and it could probably be noticed farther at night,” said John Krauss, general manager of WRVO.

The upgrade from the current 24,000-watt signal and pending switch to digital was completely covered by federal and state grants, Krauss said. A federal grant, through Rep. John McHugh, provided $139,000, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting contributed $70,000 and the New York State Education Department dispersed an additional $62,000.

WRVO has Federal Communications Commission permission to test—and, if all goes well, to subsequently expand—the signal on Aug. 1. The main signal will reach further into Syracuse, better serve that city’s eastern suburbs and fill in gaps around the region. People who get spotty coverage of the station should see increased strength in their homes or portable devices, Krauss said.

But WRVO’s coverage area is increasing other ways. A new agreement with Colgate University in Hamilton has that college’s station, WRCU 90.1 FM, simulcasting WRVO from at least 5 a.m. to noon seven days a week and all the time during Colgate academic breaks.

“A couple years ago, I went and spoke at the Hamilton Rotary Club because a couple of people who listened at higher elevation wanted our signal to come to Hamilton,” Krauss said. Through an agreement between college presidents, the partnership went into effect in June.

A similar arrangement with SUNY Cortland’s WSUC 90.5 FM will resume Sept. 1. WSUC carried WRVO from 5 to 10 a.m. weekdays and until noon on weekends until going down for repair. These outlets complement current repeaters in downtown Syracuse, Watertown and Utica.

Even before the increased signal, the number of WRVO listeners has continued to surge, Krauss said.

In the most recent available Arbitron ratings (winter 2006), WRVO gained a 4.2 percent share of those tuned into radios to rank eighth in the Syracuse-area market. No other public radio stations were in the top half of the 30-station market. The cumulative rating found that 9.9 percent of the local population—around 100,000 listeners—tune into WRVO at some point in an average week.

Its share figures rank WRVO 15th nationally (up from 28th in 2005) among public radio stations, with its cumulative ranking 22nd (up from 29th) in the country among public radio outlets.

Still on the horizon is the addition of two high-definition channels that can carry alternate programming, which mainly awaits an electrical upgrade requiring physical and logistical work. HD radio still lags on the consumer end, Krauss said, but may not much longer with digital radios hitting shelves for the holiday season and appearing in 2008 vehicles.

WRVO’s main broadcast signal can be heard at 89.9 FM or on the Web at www.wrvo.fm.

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(Posted: Jul 07, 2006)