Transmitter Extends WUPX Reach, Assists WNMU
A new 1,700-watt digital transmitter will expand the listening base of student radio station WUPX (Radio X) as far as Munising, Champion and Rapid River. It will also provide a digital broadcast for WNMU, enhancing the its signal in the Marquette area. The new transmitter comes after years of preparation and university-wide collaboration. Pictured at right is a celebration of the conversion held last month at the station.
“This is an important opportunity for Radio X and for students at Northern,” said Chuck Ganzert (Communication and Performance Studies), faculty adviser to Radio X. “We're increasing our service in the community and reaching across Marquette County in a way we never could in the past.”
WUPX’s old transmitter was 360 watts and only broadcast in analog. The new transmitter will broadcast both in analog and digital, covering parts of Alger, Baraga and Marquette counties and enabling commuter students to feel more connected to NMU. It has moved from the Presque Isle Power Plant, where it was subject to adverse environmental conditions, to Morgan Meadows. The Morgan Meadows location is ideal because the higher location allows for a wider broadcast and WUPX was able to benefit from a WNMU broadcast tower that was already there.
“There were a lot of hills which would prevent the (previous) signal from going very far,” Ganzert said. “Now that we're on top of a hill, our signal isn't obstructed anymore, and there won't be shadow zones where people aren't able to pick it up.”
Ganzert, administrative adviser Caroline Blair (ACAC) and various students involved with Radio X began working toward the new transmitter with a student-wide vote in the 2010 referendum to increase the Student Activity Fee by 70 cents per student to help fund the change.
The implementation of the transmitter was facilitated by many people in the university and Marquette community, making the process significantly cheaper and a learning opportunity for students. Eric Smith (WNMU) helped with oversight and technical aspects of the new transmitter, including supervising the installation, helping with the bidding process, figuring out what technologies Radio X should use and making connections throughout the university to find effective and affordable solutions.
“In this case, it was faculty, Dave Maki and his team and WNMU, all working together in a collaborative form that no single entity could have done on its own,” Smith said. “It’s a great example of when you work together and reach out beyond your department and tap into resources that you otherwise would never have been able to.”
WUPX's digital transmitter has also allowed WNMU to benefit from an open HD channel that will help provide better access to the Marquette area. The public station had been plagued with a low signal locally because of the surrounding terrain. The WNMU digital channel can be found at 91.5-2, which is a side channel of the main broadcast signal.
Kent Smith from local station 100.3 FM The Point helped in the purchasing and installation of the transmitter. Kevin Boyle, an ’81 NMU alum who is an attorney and partner with the law firm Latham and Watkins in Washington, D.C., helped the radio station with its legal applications so that it was up to Federal Communications Commission standards.
John Naracon, WUPX's 2011-12 general manager and junior hospitality management major from North Branch, served on the board of directors that made many of the decisions regarding the new transmitter and helped coordinate the budget for the project.
“This transmitter is a major step for WUPX. The new equipment, as well as the knowledge and skills of our student staff, put us right up there with the other stations in the community. We aren't just a little fish in a big pond anymore,” Naracon said.