Station partners and upgrades

Posted
Thursday, July 23
SHEFFIELD -- The radio broadcast frequency of the Berkshire School is now affiliated with National Public Radio.

WBSL 91.7 FM, the school's 232-watt, student-run radio station, is now broadcasting the NPR signal of affiliate WHDD 91.9 FM/1020 AM from nearby Sharon, Conn., giving WBSL 24-hour airtime.

Under an agreement between the private boarding school and Tri-State Public Communications, also known as Robin Hood Radio, WHDD will share WBSL's frequency when WBSL is off the air.

"Berkshire School is delighted to join forces with public radio as a service to the community," said Michael J. Maher, head of school. "This partnership allows area residents national programming to complement our student programming, of which we are very proud."

Robin Hood Radio co-founder Marshall Miles said the station approached the school about the partnership because WBSL was only broadcasting part-time.

When Berkshire School is in session from September through May, WBSL broadcasts weekday mornings from 7 to 8 and Sunday through Friday evenings from 7 to 11.

Now, Robin Hood Radio will fill in the gaps with familiar NPR shows such as "All Things Considered," "Car Talk" and "BBC World News."

"What Berkshire School is providing to South County residents is an alternative," said Miles. He said the demographics of South County residents are similar to WHDD's listeners in Litchfield County, Conn.

Miles said the station's programming will now add more local and regional coverage. One example will be the broadcast of the "Off the Beat-N-Track" radio show, which is produced in Sheffield by resident Todd Mack but has only previously been transmitted to Connecticut-area listeners.

"People there will be able to hear that show for the first time ever," Miles said.

The new broadcast will also include more news from the Southern Berkshire and Berkshire Hills regional school districts.

The main feed from WHDD comes to the school by means of a broadband connection that is retransmitted through WBSL's frequency. Miles said there will be a 3.5- to 5-second delay.

In addition to streaming its own programming, WBSL will stream WHDD's programming via the student life section of Berkshire School's Web site, berkshireschool.org.

"This adds a whole different dimension for students," said Miles. "We hope to have the school come up with programming ideas that we can run as well through our station."

A federally licensed, not-for-profit educational station, WBSL began broadcasting in 1973 with a power of 10 watts and is today located on the second floor of Allen House. The station's chief engineer is Thomas Jaworski, better known as Tom Jay, the longtime former news director at WSBS in Great Barrington.

James Harris, who co-advises about 55 student deejays with Berkshire School faculty member Colleen Cox, said the WBSL signal covers about a 40-mile radius north and east of the school's station.

WHDD FM went on the air in May 2005 as the newest and smallest NPR station in the country. Its program schedule can be accessed via robinhoodradio.com.


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