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New WBUR tower will beam radio signal across Cape Cod

WBUR, a National Public Radio station that broadcasts in Greater Boston, on Friday will activate a powerful new radio tower in Eastham that will give its programming virtually full coverage of Cape Cod for the first time.

WBUR already broadcasts its programming from a Tisbury radio tower on Martha’s Vineyard. The Tisbury tower’s signal at WBUA 92.7 FM has reached listeners in such Cape communities as Falmouth, Barnstable, and Yarmouth with WBUR programming since early 2013.

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The new Eastham signal, known as WBUH, will broadcast at 89.1 FM. (Although the tower is in Eastham, the station will be known as WBUH 89.1 FM Brewster. Brewster is the location listed on the station’s license.)

WBUH’s 89.1 FM is a 50,000-watt signal -- the only noncommercial 50,000-watt signal on the Cape, WBUR said. The Tisbury signal, in contrast, is a 3,000-watt signal.

Once the tower is switched on, the plan is to broadcast identical programming on WBUR, WBUH, and WBUA. WBUR’s 50,000-watt signal at 90.9 FM, which serves Greater Boston, is broadcast from a radio tower in Needham.

WBUR said it identified 89.1 FM as an unused signal on Cape Cod a decade ago and sought permission from the Federal Communications Commission to use it. The FCC held a review for the signal and received 13 applications for it. WBUR said it came in second to Home Improvement Ministries, or HIM, in a review process that concluded in 2011. (On its website, HIM describes itself as a nonprofit organization “dedicated to equipping individuals and churches to better encourage marriages and families in living out God’s design for healthy relationships.”)

By fall 2013, HIM had not yet built a station. Recognizing that HIM’s construction permit would soon expire, WBUR said it offered to cover the “minimal expenses HIM had incurred,” and HIM accepted. The signal transfer to WBUR was approved by the FCC in March.

In a statement, Sam Fleming, WBUR’s managing director of news and programming, said: “We’re looking forward to introducing WBUR-produced programs, like ‘Here & Now,’ ‘On Point,’ ‘Only A Game,’ ‘Car Talk,’ and ‘Radio Boston’ -- as well as our award-winning journalism which covers all of eastern Massachusetts, including the Cape and islands -- to the Outer and Lower Cape for the first time.”

In January, Boston public radio station WGBH said that its Cape Cod sister station WCAI had completed the upgrade of a radio broadcast tower in Tisbury, a move that will expand WCAI’s broadcast reach to a potential audience of 200,000 additional listeners.

The tower previously had a 1,200-watt signal, but WCAI 90.1 FM obtained regulatory permission to boost that signal strength, and the tower is now broadcasting at 12,500 watts, the station said. WCAI is also broadcast from two other radio towers, one on Nantucket, the other in Brewster. Those two towers use different frequencies than the Tisbury tower.

WCAI’s news room in Woods Hole produces local content that augments NPR’s national programming.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.
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