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Rhode Island Public Radio Acquires WUMD

Rhode Island Public Radio 89.3 WUMD DartmouthRhode Island Public Radio has announced the acquisition of Student-run 89.3 WUMD North Dartmouth MA from University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth for $1.5 million and $60,000 worth of underwriting over ten years.

RIPR intends to move WUMD to Tiverton RI where it will cover the eastern third of the state and the New Bedford/Fall River MA market. The network is currently heard on their owned 102.7 WRNI-FM Narragansett Pier as well as The Wheeler School’s 88.1 WELH Providence and Coventry Public School’s 91.5 WCVY Coventry RI.

RIRP states that UMass-Dartmouth will continue to operate WUMD as a webcaster.

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.


  1. Profile photo of coughitup

    Oh, No! NPR has swallowed up another student run radio station! This sucks!!!

    • Profile photo of Mark

      Let’s try this again…

      As I’ve told you many times, NPR doesn’t own radio stations. Its member stations own NPR and complain about their policies profusely. However, NPR’s drive time news shows are bigger audience getters–and fund raisers–than any music program. And what is the bigger public service–a larger service area for the only serious and purposeful national broadcast news operation left (and RIPR’s own regional news shop) or mumbling college students playing obscure music for an infinitesimal minority of listeners (and if it’s on vinyl, playing it at the wrong speed)?

      • Profile photo of Lance Venta


        Many people simply use “NPR” as a catch-all for all public radio stations. Nothing more to it than that.

      • Profile photo of ksradiogeek

        Way to put down college students who are trying to get their start in broadcasting, Mark. Good job.

        • Profile photo of Mark

          You really think that the kids working at an indie rock college station are trying to get their start in broadcasting? Outside of those schools that have a broadcasting program that run their stations as real-world laboratories–and those stations are a small minority of non-coms–the only student staffer at these stations that’s going to be working in broadcasting after graduation is the nerdy sports guy who does the sports talk show and PBP (if there is sports PBP on the station–the elitist Rock Snobs who run the station hate sports because the jocks are more popular than they are) who will be working for ESPN as a PA on “SportsCenter” after graduation or the marketing major who’s trying to sell underwriting messages who will hopefully get to work for iHeart or Cumulus at some cluster (if the station is open enough to even consider underwriting). The path from college radio to the real world pretty much ended about the time the Sex Pistols came around and college radio became part of an alternative support system for musicians that didn’t want platinum albums and sports stadium tours. Does the kid who gets to play whatever he wants to at WUMD really want to be handing out T shirts at big box store openings for the local Kiss FM or classic hits station? They’re either going to be in the music biz (and not in radio) or somewhere else (and playing volunteer on “community radio” for the rest of their careers because their idea of personality is the killer segue). In particular, during the KTRU kerfuffle in Houston the KTRU alumni supporting their station did not include one broadcaster save someone working for Adult Swim. NOT ONE BROADCASTER. Unless college stations are run like real world stations–including clocks, rotations, AudioVault and Selector–they are NOT training grounds for future commercial broadcasters–or people who want to go to public radio.

          • Profile photo of Steve Varholy

            This is probably the most negative thing I have read today outside of the political rants on Facebook.

          • Profile photo of ksradiogeek

            Actually, most of the ones I’ve worked with actually want to get into radio. I’ve done both commercial radio and college radio (commercial radio being first and have been in for quite some time), and they’re VERY enthusiastic about it. Our promotions staff is outstanding compared to others, even when we were given a very limited budget. To simply put down college radio like its not worth anything is wrong, and that type of attitude is what drives people away from it. Yes, be realistic, but don’t be condescending.

  2. Profile photo of Mark

    But it’s the truth. These kiddies didn’t want to work in real radio 30 years ago before consolidation–do you honestly think they want to work in real radio now?

    • Profile photo of Steve Varholy

      That’s not true. My alma mater has had the largest interest in at least a decade of students wanting to learn broadcasting – and our J-School dumped the radio program 15 years ago.

      I certainly hope you are no longer in “real radio,” Mark because I am sure the negativity would be really obvious on the air, if not the back office.

      • Profile photo of Mark

        I may be wrong, but let me just end on this note: If you had told me years ago that there would be a time that someone would actually say that playing obscure rock music was a bigger public service than news and public affairs programming or classical music, I would’ve thought that hilarious. How times have changed.

        • Profile photo of Steve Varholy

          You are kidding, right?

          KFOG/KMPX/WNEW and others “played obscure rock music” and formed the tastes (and careers) of a number of musicians. Bruce Springsteen was one of those that was inspired by “obscure rock music” to continue to pursue a performing career.

          The beauty of our broadcasting system is that there is a station for every interest.

          Sorry you are so negative towards people that happen to love music and radio and are exploring the medium that a lot of us find both a hobby and a livelihood.

          I wish you the best, but the only thing “hilarious” is the cruddy attitude you have.

          • Profile photo of Mark

            You really think that playing the Rotting Scabs and the Festering Boils at the wrong speed (of course they’re playing vinyl, it’s like so cool, man) and mumbling (except to shout while a rock version of “The Internationale” plays “WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE! LONG LIVE THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT AND THE RAILROAD OF BOB AVAKIAN!”) is more important then the only serious and purposeful radio news service in the United States? I like rock and roll, but even Lester Bangs said it’s in the end only “stupid teenage noise.”

          • Profile photo of charles57

            KFOG was Beautiful Music prior to 1982 or so. The other 2 stations were Progressive Rock in the 1960s when most people listened to the AM band.
            Nothing in the FCC regulations requires that each market have a radio station that plays “obscure rock music”. Besides, there are many instances of student-run radio stations turning into professional operations. WUMD is one. WUVA at the University of Virginia will soon be another.

  3. Profile photo of Steve Varholy


    And those stations were progressive rock into the early 1980’s. If you and Mark would have had it back then, they would have probably been Top 40/CHR or some other format you deemed more important.

    I do know that most of the young talent that this industry does have get their start in college radio where they have the freedom to run the station (or even mismanage it) and learn in the process. They have the opportunity to be creative – even to the point of entertaining just dozens – outside of the commercial world of voicetracking 10 second liners. There are no more weekend overnight shifts on commercial stations. iHeart in our market VOICETRACKS EVERYTHING. Even the “live” afternoon guy is voicetracked earlier in the day. So, where, praytell, are potential talent/broadcasters going to be hands on?

    Moreover, in the WUMD service area, you can get all of the NPR newsmagazines from at least two other sources. My opinion about public radio programmers doing nothing more than checking the box and running Morning Edition/All Things Considered/The World/Wait! Wait! etc. will have to be saved for another forum.

    I firmly believe it is gentlemen like Mark and Charles that have aided and abetted the situation United States commercial broadcasting is in. Why do “real people”/consumers think radio sucks? Point the finger at those gentlemen and many others like them. Full stop.

    • Profile photo of Steve Varholy

      And I will further add many that folks like Keith Olbermann and other fairly prominent names got their start at Syracuse’s student station.

      Leeza Gibbons and Rita Cosby got their start at the University of South Carolina’s WUSC. Numerous other alum have gone into the music industry.

      These are just a few examples.

      So really, student-run college freeform radio is not a service?

  4. Profile photo of Eric Jon Magnuson

    WUVA has apparently always been run as a commercial operation; it just happened to be owned by a University-affiliated group (and not technically by the University itself). There will be no changes to WTJU and WXTJ-LP, which are non-commercial and closer to the University itself.

    Also, I largely agree with Mr. Varholy that much of the standard news and talk programming from NPR, PRI, and APM is already available in significant parts of the market, via WGBH, WBUR, and/or (at the other end) WPKT; some of it is even produced by ‘GBH or ‘BUR. What’s more, it looks like at least ‘GBH even subscribes to the Providence ratings. If RIPR can beef up its local programming, however, that would be good.

    • Profile photo of Steve Varholy

      WUVA was owned by a University-affiliated student group – along the lines of an independent student newspaper. It has gone from format to format over the years as the governing body saw fit. Some years the airstaff was just barely above the rookie college DJ standard. Other years they were really well programmed and executed – particularly when they were doing CHR in the 1980’s and no commercial operator was doing it.

      WTJU was pretty much a typical free-form alternative station. I don’t spend time in Charlottesville as much as I used to.

      The big public operators in Charlottesville are Virginia Tech and James Madison University.

      I don’t disagree that RIPR could also provide a service. But I strenuously disagree with the disparagement of college radio.

    • Profile photo of charles57

      By that logic, WHJJ should drop Rush Limbaugh because he can be heard in Rhode Island via Worcester or New York City.
      RIPR’s chief executive has posted an editorial that argues for the acquisition of WUMD:

      • Profile photo of Eric Jon Magnuson

        Considering that iHeart owns ‘HJJ, WTAG, and WOR (plus WHYN, WKOX, WXTK, WELI, WGIR, WGY, et al.), it can afford to compete against itself. RIPR may not have that luxury–especially considering what happened when Boston Univ. plowed a lot of resources into R.I. (for RIPR’s predecessor), almost two decades ago.

        • Profile photo of charles57

          Have you ever seen a Providence ratings survey? RIPR can’t crack a 1 share because it’s on 3 pea-shooter FMs, two of which are leased from prep schools. And Providence is a PPM market. The planned acquisition and upgrade to 89.3 will allow RIPR to gain listeners throughout Rhode Island. That’s more desirable than catering to a tiny few who drool over free-form radio.
          And to say “they shouldn’t do it because NPR is available from out of market” reeks of marching for self-interest.

          • Profile photo of Eric Jon Magnuson

            I don’t know why you’re making up quotes now. I haven’t said that RIPR shouldn’t exist in the first place, or shouldn’t try to better its signal(s). I’m saying that RIPR may find it hard to successfully compete against established outlets–even if everything goes well with the upgrade. As I said two days ago, it would be great if RIPR could beef up on original content; however, even that didn’t work out very well 20 years ago (albeit in a different situation).

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