Fans of WUSB — the Stony Brook University radio station that briefly went off the air during a power outage last year — will be having a party Saturday when the station returns to full power.
The station's main signal at 90.1 FM will again broadcast from Freeport to Greenport when university officials flip the switch at noon on a new, 3,600-watt transmitter, general manager Isobel Breheny-Schafer said Thursday.
The $43,133 transmitter replaces a temporary system installed in April 2022 after WUSB was knocked off the air for two days when the station's 30-year-old transmitter lost power.
The first show on the new signal will be "Saturday's a Party," a reggae music program, followed by a Stony Brook University football game at 3:15 p.m., Breheny-Schafer said.
The new transmitter's installation ends an 18-month period when the station operated on "a very low signal" that could be heard only from Brentwood to Manorville, she said.
“It’s been extremely frustrating," Breheny-Schafer said, adding she could not estimate how many listeners were lost because the station does not track the size of its audience.
Besides listeners, she said the commercial-free station lost financial support from local businesses and nonprofits.
“We had no way to let them know what we could offer them, because we really couldn’t offer them anything,” she said.
The transmitter was purchased with money from a $45,000 state campus operating fund, Breheny-Schafer said, adding the remaining $1,867 was used for equipment required to complete installation of the system. A fundraising campaign originally intended to buy the transmitter raised $24,021, which will be used for other operating expenses, she said.
The free-form station is run by more than 100 students and volunteers and plays an eclectic mix of rock, jazz, country, hip-hop, classical and polka music, sprinkled with news, talk and sports programs. On-air personalities include students, alumni, faculty, other university staff and community members, Breheny-Schafer said.
The station also is available on its website, wusb.fm, and on a low-power frequency at 107.3 FM that reaches a small area on the North Shore where the main signal can't be heard, Breheny-Schafer said.
She said she has been promoting the station's comeback at recent events, such as last weekend's Cedar Beach blues music festival in Port Jefferson.
"There were a lot of longtime listeners at that event. They were so excited," Breheny-Schafer said. "… So many people were like, 'This is my favorite radio station.'”