New WPR Music station in Barron County – 90.7 WEPP – named in honor of Gene Purcell

WPM director Gene Purcell, during a WPR pledge drive.
Former WPM director, the late Gene Purcell, during a WPR pledge drive.

On June 13, Wisconsin Public Radio will begin broadcasting our WPR Music service on 90.7 FM, WEPP in Rice Lake. “90.7 FM in Rice Lake will be our 39th station and help fill a gap in service that we’ve had between Eau Claire and Superior for some time,” WPR Director Sarah Ashworth said.

“The new 90.7 FM in Rice Lake will offer listeners beautiful, expertly curated music all day long. Even as we expand our digital service, we remain committed to radio. No other medium is as affordable, reliable and accessible for listeners as radio.” Listeners in Barron County can currently hear WPR News on 88.3 FM from Menomonie/Eau Claire. Both services are also available live on, the free WPR app and smart speakers.

Station call letters – or call signs – are a bit like the license plate number on your car, in addition to serving as a unique identifier for federal identification, call letters can also carry additional meaning. For example, WPR’s WERN in Madison stands for “Educational Radio Network.” The meaning can sometimes be poetic, like WPR’s WLBL in Auburndale, which stands for the “Land
of Beautiful Lakes.”

WEPP was named to honor former Wisconsin Public Media Executive Director Gene Purcell, whose given name was Eugene Patrick Purcell. Gene died after being struck by a negligent driver in 2021. “Gene was a wonderful leader, colleague and friend – he is still dearly missed,” Executive Director of the Educational Communications Board Marta Bechtol said. ECB is the partner with UW-Madison in operating WPR and PBS Wisconsin.

“When it came time to name this station, honoring Gene felt like the best tribute we could make for his years of service to Wisconsin,” Marta added. “He had a fascination with call letters and knew the meaning behind many of them in Wisconsin and around the nation. We were thrilled when we learned that the call letters WEPP were available for use.”

“Gene was passionate about ensuring that everyone in Wisconsin could access the news, information and entertainment on WPR and PBS Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Public Media Executive Director Heather Reese said. “As a devoted fan of both music and the north woods, I know he would truly appreciate being remembered with the launch of 90.7 FM in Rice Lake.”

Gene’s radio career started as a student on WLSU-FM at UW-La Crosse. After graduation and a brief stint in commercial radio, he returned to WLSU as a reporter, eventually rising to become news director and then station manager. Gene joined WPR as the regional manager for southwest Wisconsin and later moved to Madison to become deputy director — and later executive director — of the ECB. In 2018 he became the executive director of Wisconsin Public Media at UW-Madison.

WEPP 90.7 FM’s tower and transmitter outside of Rice Lake will be dedicated in a small private ceremony with Gene’s family, friends, and colleagues on June 13, 2024. The station is scheduled to begin broadcasting between 11 a.m. and noon that day.