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WLRH or "WLRH 89.3 FM/HD Huntsville" is Alabama's first Public Radio station. It offers music, news, and entertainment programming from American Public Media, Public Radio Exchange, National Public Radio, and other nationally recognized public media outlets, as well as airing several local shows produced by WLRH staff and volunteers. WLRH provides three HD channels. HD1 is a digital version of the main WLRH signal, HD2 is a 24-hour classical music service, and HD3 provides news and talk. WLRH serves an area roughly 60 miles in all directions from its transmitter on Monte Sano, including north central Alabama and south central Tennessee, as well as Fort Payne via a translator.
|Broadcast area||Tennessee Valley|
|Branding||89.3 FM/HD Huntsville Public Radio|
|Slogan||"Music, News, and Community Programming for Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley"|
|Frequency||89.3 FM (MHz)|
(HD Radio) HD-1-main
|Translator(s)||W283CM (104.5) Fort Payne|
|First air date||October 13, 1976|
|HAAT||247 meters (811 feet)|
|Call sign meaning||Library Radio Huntsville|
|Owner||Alabama Educational Television Commission|
|Webcast||Main HD 1|
Classical HD 2
News and Talk HD 3
Huntsville has boasted for many years a large population of highly educated, affluent professionals such as technicians, engineers, and entrepreneurs, mostly associated with the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal installation, NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and contractors. Many of these individuals were responsible for organizing an unusually high-quality performing arts scene for such a small city in the 1960s. These were among factors that led to Huntsville receiving Alabama's first public radio license, and broadcasts began on October 13, 1976 from the Times Building on Holmes Avenue. The state's largest city, Birmingham, followed suit two months later when WBHM started in December.
The station was originally owned by the Huntsville Madison County Public Library; in fact the call letters stand for Library Radio Huntsville. However, just over a year after the station signed on, library officials realized they were in over their heads with operating a full-service radio station. The Alabama Educational Television Commission stepped in and bought the station in December 1977, and still owns it today. The station carried, as was customary for public stations during that era, mostly classical music programming, with jazz late nights and on weekends. In 1987, after significant listener growth, UAH offered the AETC use of a newly constructed facility on its campus, several miles to the west of downtown; WLRH took the offer and remains at that location today.
In the early years, the station carried some unusual programs, most notably a weekly hour-long German-language news and features show for the benefit of several natives of that land who worked in Huntsville's aerospace and defense industry. It also was the home of northern Alabama's first call-in radio talk show, which had a very different flavor than those found on commercial stations today (in fact, when the format's popularity exploded elsewhere in the 1990s, WLRH dropped the show).
In 2010 WLRH added 89.3 HD2, a 24-hour classical music service. It added 89.3 HD3 News/Talk in 2012.
WLRH added a translator at 104.5 FM in Fort Payne, AL in 2018.
- Ginny Kennedy- Morning Edition host
- Katy Ganaway- All Things Considered host
- Dorrie Nutt- Morning Blend host, Sundial Writers Corner producer
- Sarah Williamson- Morning Blend host, Sundial Writers Corner producer, Arts Underground producer and host
- Brett Tannehill- General Manager
- Nate Emery- Radio Program Producer, Valley Sounds host
- Rebecca Goodwin- Promotions and Membership Specialist
- Bob Labbe- Reelin' in the Years
- "Microwave Dave" Gallaher- Talkin' the Blues
- John Hightower- Brass, Reeds, and Percussion
- Brad Posey- The Invisible City
- Valley Sounds-- Hosted by Nate Emery this all-local music show shines the spotlight on original music of all genres created and performed in the Tennessee Valley. Each hour long episode contains a mix of music, interviews and other special segments that provide insight on the creative process of making and performing music. Valley Sounds is available as a podcast and airs Saturdays at 9pm.
- The Public Radio Hour-- This is weekly mix of special programs and homemade radio features seeks the untold story about ideas that matter. Hosted by Brett Tannehill and Katy Ganaway and produced in part by WLRH Community Newsroom volunteers. This program airs every Thursday at 7pm and is also available as a podcast.
- The Sundial Writers Corner-- is one of WLRH's longest running programs. For more than 20 years, Sundial has featured prose, poetry, commentaries, and short stories, submitted by Tennessee Valley wordsmiths and told in the voice of the author. Many Sundial writers have received awards at the state and national level. The Sundial Writers Corner airs Mondays at 9am, right after Morning Edition and is available as a podcast.
- Arts Underground- This weekly hour of music and interviews explores all different forms of creativity and skill as host Sarah Williamson asks "What is art, and what can we learn from it?" Arts Underground airs Saturdays at 2pm and is available as a podcast.
- Reelin' in the Years--hosted by former WAAY-TV sports anchor Bob Labbe, this Friday-night show features songs from the host's extensive collection of 45 R.P.M. records, covering popular music from the 1950s through the 1980s.
- Brass, Reeds, and Percussion--the longest-running specialty show on the station, dating from 1976. The program features concert and marching band numbers and may be the only one of its kind in the entire country. The program is heard early Saturday afternoons. Darryl Adams, a local engineer and band musician, hosted the show from its inception until his death in October 2011. The show is currently hosted by John Hightower.
- Talkin' the Blues--a one-hour examination, heard Saturday evenings, of various aspects of blues music, hosted by a blues musician himself, "Microwave Dave" Gallaher. Gallaher, whose band, Microwave Dave and the Nukes, performs throughout the Southeastern U.S., in fact began the program while performing during a pledge drive for the station once. Gallaher also does this show for Huntsville's other public station, WJAB, the Alabama A&M University NPR outlet.
- The Invisible City--two hours of alternative rock music, hosted by Brad Posey, and heard Friday evenings, with a repeat on late night Saturdays.
WLRH is the Alabama Educational Television Commission's only radio property; that state government agency is better known as the operator of the Alabama Public Television network.
One distinctive programming practice of WLRH is its frequent announcements throughout the broadcast day of underwriting day sponsorships made by individuals or families, in addition to the usual businesses and non-profit organizations. Usually, these messages honor birthdays or wedding anniversaries. Additionally, for more than 25 years, WLRH has offered a unique community service to its listening area. The WLRH PSA Program provides representatives from local non-profit and community organizations the opportunity to record 30 second public service announcements for their group or event for free. Other radio stations may also have a public service announcement program, but none provide such extensive coverage or prime-time placement. WLRH features PSAs on its 3 channels in all day parts, including morning and afternoon drive time. The PSAs are deeply integrated into all parts of on-air programming. For many of the non-profits that use it, PSA Program is the only way to connect with the communities they serve. WLRH offers two categories of PSAs. General PSAs share a group's service message for up to a year. Event PSAs provide information about a group's events and fundraisers.
George Dickerson, a former South Bend, Indiana television news anchor, served as the only general manager in WLRH's entire history from its 1976 inception until his retirement in early 2007. It is believed that Dickerson's tenure was the longest ever for a manager of an American public radio station (and perhaps all public broadcasting), exceeding 30 years. Brett Tannehill has been WLRH's general manager since 2011.
- Nelson, Bob (2008-10-18). "Call Letter Origins". The Broadcast Archive. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
- "The Facilities of Radio". Broadcasting Yearbook 1979. Washington, D.C.: Broadcasting Publications, Inc. 1979. p. C5.