WBFO 88.7 FM Completes Conversion to State-of-the-Art Digital System, Renovation of Studios

By Kelli Bocock-Natale

Release Date: June 30, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- WBFO 88.7 FM, a major public service of the University at Buffalo, has announced the completion of a project to convert its analog broadcast facilities to a state-of-the-art digital system, and to renovate its studios in Allen Hall on the UB South (Main Street) Campus.

WBFO, the National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate operated by UB, was one of only 15 public radio stations nationwide to receive a grant in 2002 from the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) of the U. S. Department of Commerce to install a digital system.

The installation and rehabilitation project, which cost $275,000, also was supported by grants from the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation of Jamestown, the Cameron Baird Foundation, the Johnson Foundation of Jamestown, and by member support. Funds provided by the three foundations enabled WBFO to meet the required amount of matching funds under the terms of the PTFP award.

UB President William R. Greiner praised WBFO for its contributions to the university and the community.

"For over 40 years, WBFO has served UB and our region, leading the way in delivering top-flight programming to a regional community of listeners who hunger for information, thrive on ideas, and seek cultural experiences not available on commercial media," he said. "In many ways, WBFO is also the voice of our university, introducing Western New Yorkers to the talents, creativity and accomplishments of UB's faculty and students, telling the story of UB's research efforts, public service initiatives, and myriad of events and activities."

Greiner continued, "With the awarding of this very competitive federal grant in 2002, and now the completion of our major digitization project, that voice has been significantly strengthened for the 21st century. Thanks to the outstanding vision and support of the Ralph C. Sheldon, Cameron Baird and Johnson Foundations -- as well as the ongoing commitment of the station's members -- WBFO is now better positioned than ever to serve as a leading public resource for our regional communities."

"This has been the most significant technical improvement in the 44-year history of the station," said Carole Smith Petro, associate vice president and WBFO general manager. "These upgrades to our broadcast delivery systems will allow us to take full advantage of digital, satellite and Internet capabilities, and place us in the technical forefront of both commercial and public radio stations across the nation."

"The digitization of the studios provides WBFO with the unique opportunity to harness technology to provide a clearer, more reliable signal, and greater flexibility in both the production and airing of programs" said David Benders, program director. "This upgrade also ensures that we will meet the high standards for sound quality that are expected of NPR affiliates."

The installation of the Logitek system, which is used in approximately 500 of the 11,000 radio stations in the nation, includes rehabilitation of two control rooms, two studios, the newsroom and the central control/wire room.

The new control boards replace an obsolete analog system that increasingly was difficult to operate and repair. In addition, thousands of feet of copper wire have been replaced by fiber optic cable, thus eliminating a major source of error and transmission obstacles that can cause interruptions in radio service and fuzziness in its sound.

In addition to improving WBFO's sound, the digital upgrade provides a more direct link to satellite programming from NPR, and facilitates online streaming of programs and telephone interviews. The new system also makes it easier to produce material off-site and gives WBFO access to a wider range of editors and producers.

WBFO is Western New York's only FM National Public Radio (NPR) station. It reaches an audience of almost 100,000 people through its main signal in Buffalo and through repeater stations WUBJ 88.1 FM in Jamestown and WOLN 91.3 FM in Olean. WBFO offers a depth of programming not available elsewhere in the community, including NPR/PRI news and entertainment programs, local and regional news, public and cultural affairs programming, and jazz and blues.

The station has played an important role in the evolution of National Public Radio over the last several decades. It was among the 10 charter members of National Public Radio when it was founded in 1970. Programming developed at WBFO in the 1960s became the model for NPR's "All Things Considered," and a number of public radio luminaries began their professional careers at the station, among them Terry Gross (B.A. '72, Ed.M. '75) and Ira Flatow (B.S. '71).