Sunday, August 28, 2011

28 August 1987: WUGA Brings Public Radio to Athens

On this day in 1987, after several delays, Athens gained her own public radio station, WUGA. The station began broadcasting at 6:00am with National Public Radio's Morning Edition. The Athens Observer urged people to listen to hear something "delightfully different."

The establishment of a public radio station in Athens took years of planning, and by the mid-1980s had become an issue of faculty recruitment for the University of Georgia. The Georgia Center of Education had always intended to have a radio station, and in the mid-1980s, grants for the purpose of addressing this need. The work in Athens coincided with the creation of Peach State Public Radio in 1985, now part of Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The station broadcast at 3,000 watts on 91.7 FM. It now broadcasts at 6,000 watts, and has a coverage area  that includes Elberton, Gainesville, Lawrenceville, Eatonton, Madison, Monroe, and Washington, Georgia. The added translator at 97.9 FM that broadcasts from the University of Georgia campus has a range of only about seven miles, and helps with reception in the western part of Athens where interference from Atlanta radio stations had been an occasional issue.

Since its creation, WUGA has consistently been honored for their local coverage of the Athens area. This spring, News Director Mary Kay Mitchell was awarded for "Best General Reporting" in the radio category by the Georgia Associated Press Association; the station won five other awards, as well: second place awards for "Best Series Reporting," "Best Use of Sound," and "Best Feature." 

WUGA now offers more local programming, such as African Perspectives, Just Off the Radar, Night Music, and Athens News Matters,  along with national programs from NPR and PRI, and international programming, such as BBC's The Changing World and World Service news. The station consistently wins "Best Radio Station" polls in the Athens area.

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