Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
There are few big cities with quite as vibrantly competitive a public media scene as Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love boasts two public TV stations – behemoth WHYY-TV (Channel 12) and scrappy independent WYBE (Channel 35, aka “MiND”) – and no fewer than three separate big public radio operations. WHYY (90.9) does news and talk, originating “Fresh Air” amongst other things. The University of Pennsylvania holds the license for WXPN (88.5), perhaps the nation’s foremost public AAA station and the production home of the national “World Cafe.”
And on the north side of town, at Temple University, WRTI (90.1) is Philadelphia’s home for both jazz and classical programming. It’s been at its current home in a university office building on Cecil B. Moore Avenue since 2004 – and what a home it is! Let’s take a late-night tour, shall we?
Hang a right turn at the lobby and a nifty metal-covered wall features a window looking into WRTI’s main air studio, where the station originates classical programming by day and jazz at night. (A “mirror image” on WRTI’s HD2 runs jazz in the daytime and classical at night, providing a 24-hour service on both formats.)
While WRTI isn’t primarily a news/talk station, there’s still a good-sized newsroom down the hall here, along with a studio where talk programming can be originated.
Around the corner, there are still more production rooms – and a big recording studio, too, that can be used for live music.
How about a transmitter site, too?
The bottom of the FM dial in Philadelphia has long been a complicated place, thanks to WPVI (Channel 6) operating just below the FM dial from the Roxborough tower farm.
Philadelphia’s noncommercial FMs had to stay close to channel 6 to avoid interference – which has often meant operating right from channel 6’s own site. For many years, WRTI operated from the WFLN (95.7) tower just west of the WPVI site. It later moved a bit east to the “Gross Tower” at the southeastern edge of the Roxborough farm, and recently relocated to the new American Tower facility at the old WCAU-TV location on Domino Lane.
Meanwhile, WRTI’s old home at the Gross Tower has a new occupant as of the summer of 2014: WXPN (88.5), which had been operating from another tower on the the WPVI property, moved to a new five-bay antenna right at the very top of the Gross Tower, mounted on the pylon that used to be the analog antenna of WPSG (Channel 57), above the two-bay antenna used by Greater Media’s stations.
On a dreadfully rainy November day, we got a peek at WXPN’s new installation, tucked neatly in what used to be the transformer vault of the channel 57 transmitter plant. The old analog transmitter is gone now, leaving a big empty space with just one lonely LPTV transmitter at the far end; WPSG’s new digital operation is up Domino Lane at the new American Tower site.
Thanks to Mark Humphrey and WRTI’s Tobias Poole for the tours!
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Next week: North of Philadelphia, 2013