The invisible airwaves of WUSB, Stony Brook’s commercial-free FM radio station, once again crackle with full-power life thanks to a new transmitter that went live at noon Saturday, October 14, during Stony Brook’s CommUniversity Day festivities.
The $43,000, 3,600-watt 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 new transmitter’s installation ends an 18-month period when the station operated on a very low signal that could be heard only within an approximately 20-mile radius.
“It’s been extremely frustrating for both our listeners and supporters,” said Isobel Breheny-Schafer, assistant director of Student Media and general manager for WUSB. “We couldn’t guarantee our station’s capabilities because the transmitter had become so unpredictable.”
The new transmitter, which has a range of about double that of the temporary transmitter, was funded with money from a state campus operating fund, which also covered the equipment required to complete installation of the system.
“This major accomplishment is testament to both the challenges we face and the determination of our engineering staff,” said Emmanuel Goldstein, a Stony Brook alum who has been with WUSB-FM since its inception and has hosted Off the Wall, a show addressing local and global issues, since 2003. “I really hope more people on campus and off realize what a unique treasure WUSB is.”
“There are times when we encounter a problem for which an obvious solution appears to be unreachable and frustration sets in, and that was the case with the transmitter breakdown,” said Gabe Romero, who has hosted Gabe’s Flight, a show featuring Afro-Cuban music and Latin jazz since 1992. “To our credit, WUSB kept going and now we’ve got the problem solved. With that sense of achievement in the air, this is a time of renewed purpose and new challenges. This is an opportunity to take WUSB to new heights.”
WUSB was originally an on-campus AM carrier-current student station from 1963 until receiving Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensing for FM transmission in June 1977. The station has been on-air 24-7, 365 days a year since then at 90.1 FM. In 2017, WUSB acquired an additional frequency and can also be heard locally on 107.3 FM. In 2021, the station, was honored by Suffolk County, RESPONSE Crisis Center of Suffolk, and the New York Blood Center for its communication efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The station is staffed by more than 100 students and volunteers and features a broad range of free-form, commercial-free programming. Shows offer an eclectic mix of rock, reggae, jazz, blues, country, hip-hop, and more, along with news, talk, self-help and sports programs. On-air personalities include students, alumni, faculty, university staff and community members.
“This new transmitter makes the station whole again,” said Matt Mankiewich, a Stony Brook alum and member of WUSB’s sports department since 1983, and since 2018 has hosted Flywheel, a program that focuses on automobiles. “Our FCC license tells us how powerful our signal must be and where it should reach, and we’ve had to accept less than that for more than a year. Now we have a chance to get the word out and reach new listeners.”
Breheny-Schafer seconds that sentiment.
“I meet many longtime listeners at the events we attend,” she said. “I can’t tell you how often I hear ‘WUSB is my favorite radio station.’ Now we’ll be able to bring our great programming to even more listeners on Long Island and Connecticut.”
— Robert Emproto