FM Technical Profile: WBHM


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Station Name:
-
Frequency:
90.3
Format:
Public Radio: Classical, Jazz, NPR and PRI News, Talk.
Transmitter Location:
[map] [street view] Located on the WBRC-TV tower atop Red Mountain.  From the Vulcan statue, it's the second tower to your west.
Power (ERP):
32 kW
Antenna:
Omnidirectional
Antenna HAAT:
1214 feet
Other Information:
60 dBu protected contour map, from the FCC.
:
PS-
GIVE ONLINE: A SERVICE OF UAB WBHM-FM
Time-
present
Text-
WBHM
PTY-
Public
PS-
WBHM-FM
SCA: Alabama Radio Reading Service
// W291DC Birmingham
More Information:
[FCC]
[FCCdata]
[Radio-Locator]
[Wikipedia]
[Bhamwiki]
[Facebook]
[Audio] 30th Anniversary interview and aircheck from the station's first year of broadcasting.

[Image] Coverage map of WBHM and WSGN (hosted on WBHM's website).

[Image] RDS display data as shown on a Mazda OEM stereo, from 2020.
[Image] RDS display from the station on a GMC Yukon's radio.
[Image] RDS display from an Insignia portable radio in northwest Alabama, showing the Radio Text and PI (call sign) fields, updated June 2017.
[Image] RDS display from a GM vehicle's radio showing the RDS PS (station slogan) field of the W291DC translator in Birmingham.
Owner:
  University of Alabama at Birmingham
History:
The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) applied for a new noncommercial station in Birmingham on 90.3 MHz in November of 1974.  The original application was for 100 kW from an antenna Height Above Average Terrain (HAAT) of 735 feet, from the WBMG-TV 42 tower atop Red Mountain.  The original studio location was in the Education Building on the UAB campus.  Before the application was granted, Taft Broadcasting owners of WBRC-TV 6 filed an objection to the application over possible interference issues to their TV station.  It appears that Taft's objections had some merit, as the Board of Trustees filed in 1976 to move to a different transmitter site and lower the Effective Radiated Power.  It's worth noting that Taft had also objected to the application for the Huntsville Library's public radio station in that city, for the same reasons. 

The updated application moved the transmitter location to its current site atop Red Mountain, with an antenna height of 892 feet HAAT.  The power was lowered to 50 kW, fed by a Harris FM20-H3 transmitter.  Ironically, this is the WBRC-TV tower, owned by the people who objected to the initial application!  A license to cover for this operation was filed in November 1976; WLRH in Huntsville had beaten it to the airwaves by only a few months.  The station debuted with a
Subsidiary Communications Authorization (SCA) on 67 kHz, for a radio reading service for the blind. 

The station was an early adopter of the Radio Data System (RDS) standard in the mid-90's, but wound up abandoning it due to issues with noise in the station's audio caused by the data.

In 2000, the station began being heard on 91.5 WSGN in Gadsden, as part of a deal Gadsden State Community College struck to keep their station on the air.

RDS was turned back on sometime in 2011, it appears.  The station has carried the Alabama Radio Reading Service for years, but word on the street was the service was being cut in the fall of 2011 due to lack of support and budget restraints.  As of 2016, it was still reportedly active.  The station had planned to add HD digital in 2010 but that never materialized.

In 2012, the station began being heard on translator W284CA, licensed to Fort Payne, by way of WSGN in Gadsden.  When WSGN's school owners sold the station to K-Love in 2018, WBHM was supposed to feed the translator directly.  It appears, however, that this never happened, as records indicate the translator was actually rebroadcasting Huntsville's WLRH instead.

In other translator-related information, the station began being heard on W291DC in Birmingham in 2017.  The translator was originally intended to relay Atlanta's Christian CHR WVFJ-FM, but that likely never materialized.  The translator, which operates from atop Red Mountain, offers a directional signal to the southern suburbs to help fill in coverage in the mountainous terrain.