Wisconsin Public Radio has always been a leader in broadcast innovation.
Now we're proud to be among the first radio stations in the United States to implement the new "HD" digital radio service.
In June of 2003, Wisconsin Public Radio signed contracts with iBiquity, the patent holder and sole source of
FCC approved HD Radio technology, placing it among the leaders in broadcast digital technology.
WPR is no stranger to innovation. Here's a timeline of events in WPR's history we hope you'll find interesting.
- 1914 - University of Wisconsin Electrical engineering professor Edward Bennett sets up a personal
wireless transmitter set on campus and applies to the Commerce Department for a license; he is assigned call letters 9XM.
- 1915 - The license for 9XM is transferred to the University of Wisconsin for use with a new transmitter
being built by Professor Earle Terry and his physics students.
- 1916 - On December 4th, station 9XM carries the first regular "broadcast" of Wisconsin state
weather forecast by Morse Code from UW's Science Hall.
- 1917 - 9XM experiments with music transmissions from phonograph records. 9XM is allowed to
remain on the air during World War I for experiments with the Army and Navy.
- 1918 - 9XM moves from Science Hall to Sterling Hall. Experimental voice transmissions are made with
- 1919 - On February 17th, the first documented clear transmission of human speech occurs on 9XM.
- 1921 - Regular schedule of voice broadcasts begin; 9XM is the first radio station in the United
States to provide the weather forecast by voice (January 3rd). In September, farm market broadcasts are added.
On November 1st, 9XM carries the first live broadcast of a symphony orchestra - The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
from the UW Armory using a single microphone.
- 1922 - On January 13th, 9XM is relicensed by the US Commerce Department as WHA making it one of the
oldest radio stations in the United States, and one of the first educational institutions (along with WLB
at the University of Minnesota) to be granted a license in the new "limited commercial" category for broadcasting.
- 1922 - On March 15th, WHA-AM debuts its first news program, a weekly offering consisting of material from the
University Press Bulletin.
- 1923 - WPAH goes on the air in Waupaca on February 5th, licensed to the Wisconsin Department of
Markets. It moves to Stevens Point the next year and takes the call letters WLBL for Wisconsin Land of
Beautiful Lakes. It is one of the few non-commercial AM stations not owned by an educational institution.
- 1924 - WLBL-AM debuts the Badger State Crier, a daily half-hour afternoon newscast produced by the
Stevens Point Daily Journal
- 1927 - Chapter a Day, one of the longest running programs in radio history, begins on WHA
when a radio guest cancels and the host decides to read a library book to fill the hour. Listeners ask for
more. In 1932, it's carried as a summer program. In 1939, it becomes a daily program.
- 1928 - WLBL-AM teams up with the Stevens Point Daily Journal to provide live election night coverage.
- 1929 - WHA's Farm Program is simulcast on WTMJ-Milwaukee. This is the first of many public/commercial simulcast agreements.
- 1930 - WHA's Homemakers' Hour is simulcast on WIBA-Madison. WHA originates a broadcast for NBC.
The station joins with a handful of other educational stations to develop a network for educational programs
distributed by shortwave from Cincinnati. It experiments with programs for use in public school classrooms.
- 1931 - WHA debuts the Wisconsin School of the Air with 10 weekly programs for in-school use.
WHA is assigned studio space in the State Capitol (which still exists today). WHA carries the first regular
remote broadcasts from a University of Wisconsin classroom.
- 1932 - WHA-AM and WLBL-AM begin sharing some programs via off-air rebroadcast, the first hint of the
"network" that will later become Wisconsin Public Radio. WHA and WLBL pioneer the use of radio for political
discussion by candidates with the "Political Education Forum." WHA moves its transmitter to the abandoned
transmitter site of WISJ-Madison.
- 1933 - WHA-AM debuts the Wisconsin College of the Air and offers a course in
touch typing by radio. WHA and WLBL continue regular program simulcasts using phone company lines rather than
less reliable "off-air" pickup, but due to a budget cut, a UW doctoral graduate devises 1,050-foot ground
antenna for WLBL so they can pickup WHA reliably. (Total cost: $95). The antenna also allows WLBL to carry
Green Bay Packers football games from WTMJ-Milwaukee from 1933 to 1938.
- 1934 - WHA moves from Sterling Hall to Radio Hall, remodeled from an abandoned laboratory building
that had been originally built in 1882 as a heating plant. It remains the home for the radio operation until
- 1935 - WHA acquires its first transcription disc recorder.
- 1936 - WHA and UW engineers design and construct a new transmitter for the station. The cost is
less than a third of the price of a comparable commercial transmitter. It remains in service until 1951.
- 1937 - WLBL moves its transmitter to Auburndale. The new tower is purported to be the tallest
man-made structure in Wisconsin at the time. UW engineers build another low-cost transmitter identical to
WHA's transmitter for WLBL. The WLBL unit, dubbed "Old Betsy," is finally retired in December 1961 after
71,451 hours of service.
- 1938 - WHA-AM begins airing educational and cultural programs from outside agencies; the programs
are delivered on 16-inch transcription records.
- 1939 - WHA-AM begins using a 30-watt mobile shortwave transmitter with callsign WDAC (at 2790 KHz) for
wireless remote broadcasts. Its first use is by the Homemakers' Hour broadcasting live from an area garden.
- 1940 - WLBL-AM gauges the extent of its coverage with a contest called "Cheese for Christmas;" for
the each day in December, the most distant listener to report WLBL reception wins a package of cheese.
- 1942 - WHA adds Sunday broadcasts to become a true daily broadcast service. A PA (Press Association)
news wire teletype is installed.
- 1943 - WHA begins airing BBC programs from transcription recordings.
- 1944 - WHA begins producing programs for national distribution over the Mutual Broadcasting System.
- 1945 - WHA begins airing some interview and music programs from the Mutual Broadcasting System.
- 1947 - Years before the "FM" band became more popular than "AM", the State of Wisconsin begins
construction of an FM Network. The first station completed was WHA-FM in Madison which was renamed WERN
in 1974. The WERN call letters stood for Wisconsin Educational Radio Network.
- 1948 - The second of the state FM stations WHAD in built in Delafield providing service
to the Milwaukee area by repeating the off-air broadcast from WHA-FM in Madison.
- 1949 - WHKW in Chilton (which later becomes WPNE-FM in Green Bay) and WHSF
on Rib Mountain/Wausau (later renamed WHRM) become the third and fourth FM stations in the state's FM network.
WHKW is fed off air from WHAD-Delafield and WHSF is fed from WHKW-Chilton.
- 1950 - WHWC in Colfax (now licensed to Menomonie) and WHLA in West Salem (now located
in La Crosse) become the network's fifth and sixth FM stations.
- 1951 - WHA-AM acquires its first factory-built transmitter.
- 1952 - WHHI in Highland and WHSA in Brule complete the original eight-station FM
network. All the network stations are linked entirely by off-air feeds. The Weather Roundup debuts:
a round-robin of local weather conditions presented by the transmitter engineers.
- 1956 - WHA, WLBL, the eight state FM stations and two commercial FM stations in Menomonee Falls and
Baraboo join together to provide experimental two-channel broadcasting, sending one channel over one set of
stations and the other channel over another set of the stations. Listeners were required to use two radios
set to different stations to experience the "stereophonic" effect. Special tapes of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
are transmitted for the experiment.
- 1963 - WHA-FM in Madison begins regular stereo transmissions.
- 1964 - WHAD-FM in Delafield begins regular stereo transmissions.
- 1965 - WHMD in Marinette (later moved to Suring) is added to ther state FM network to provide
better reception to far northeastern Wisconsin.
- 1966 - The Wisconsin Educational Radio Network offers its first over-the-air college course for
credit. New "SCA" service is inaugurated for educational, vocational, distance learning, specialty and
University Extension programs. All FM stations now broadcast in stereo.
- 1967 - The first offering through the Midwest Educational Radio Network, an over-the-air relay
from Madison to stations stretching 600 miles from Ohio to Minnesota. First regularly-scheduled call-in
- 1968 - UPI (United Press International) audio service is added to WPR's newsroom.
- 1971 - Live NPR (National Public Radio) programming starts on the network fed via landlines.
The first live daily program carried is All Things Considered.
- 1972 - First "regional production" by a network station other than Madison begins with Programa
Cultural en Español, which airs on WHAD in Delafield/Milwaukee.
- 1972 - WPR moves from Radio Hall to the newly completed Vilas Communications Hall on the
Madison campus. The building is named after William Freeman Vilas, a former state senator and UW benefactor.
The building was dedicated in 1974.
- 1979 - NPR switches from landline to satellite distribution. A new downlink goes into service
next to the UW Stadium in Madison.
- 1984 - WPR becomes one of only 22 National Public Radio satellite uplink sites in the United States.
- 1985 - WPR begins the construction of permanent regional radio studios now located in La Crosse,
Eau Claire, Superior, Wausau, Green Bay and Milwaukee.
- 1994 - WPR begins replacing all of its analog production equipment. By 2000, almost 90% of all
WPR-produced programming heard on the network is produced using AudioVault©,
SoundForge© digital editing and storage systems.
- 1995 - WPR.ORG rolls out its first dozen web pages. Ten years
later, the site holds the equivalent of 10,000 pages of information and receives over 1,600,000 page views
- 2000 - WPR.ORG begins audio archiving selected WPR-produced programs like Whad'Ya Know?. By 2004, all
Ideas Network call-in programs are being archived.
- 2001 - WPR.ORG begins regular live streaming of both radio networks using the RealAudio format.
- 2004 - WPR, consisting now of 27 radio stations, replaces its analog radio distribution with a
new "Broadcast InterConnect" system using reliable ATM Ring technology and T1 digital transmission
lines to each station and regional bureau.
- 2005 - Additional live web streaming is made available using Windows Media format. By 2006,
WPR's live streams are received by over 45,000 listeners each month.
- 2005 - WPR completes construction of the first four "HD Radio" stations on December 1st. They are:
- WERN (FM) 88.7 in Madison
- WHA (AM) 970 in Madison
- WHRM (FM) 90.9 in Wausau
- KUWS (FM) 91.3 in Superior
- 2006 - WPR adds HD Radio capability to two more stations. They are:
- WHAD (FM) 90.7 in Delafield/Milwaukee
- WPNE (FM) 89.3 in Green Bay
- 2007 - WPR begins HD Radio Multicasting - adding additional HD2 program channels to all FM
stations running HD Radio. In February 2007, WERN/Madison, WHAD/Delefield and WPNE/Green Bay began carrying a fulltime 24 hour classical
service on HD2. WHRM/Wausau carries the Ideas Network on HD2.
- 2007 - New WPR station WSSW FM 89.1 goes on the air from Platteville, WI. WPR's website adds a third family of
live streams using the MP3 format.
- 2008 - WPR continues HD Radio Multicasting of the 24-hour classical music network with:
- KUWS-FM 91.3 Superior
- WHLA-FM 90.3 La Crosse
- WHWC-FM 88.3 Menomonie/Eau Claire
- WHDI-FM 91.9 Sister Bay
- WHBM-FM 90.3 Park Falls
- WHHI-FM 91.3 Highland
- 2008 - WPR broadcasts "The Ideas Network" on analog and HD on WLBL-AM 930 Auburndale-Stevens Point
The above timeline created by WPR's Allen Rieland and Randall Davidson
OTHER REFERENCE MATERIAL
"Wisconsin Public Radio is proud to be a pioneer in this new field of broadcasting. We're really looking forward to the new signals and services
possible with this new technology."
- - Steve Johnston, WPR Director of Engineering & Operations
Stations on the Air: 1,934
Stations Multicasting: 863
Source: iBiquity Corp