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Changes in store for Tampa radio station WMNF-FM 88.5

It's not the top-to-bottom overhaul that program director Randy Wynne wanted.

But WMNF-FM 88.5's new schedule for 2011 still holds lots of changes for Tampa's community radio station, moving its signature public affairs shows earlier in the day, creating a block of music programming from noon to 3 p.m., starting its evening music shows an hour earlier and dropping its daily rebroadcast of NPR's interview show Fresh Air.

These moves percolate as WMNF faces losing access to significant parts of its listenership for weeks, due to work on its transmission antenna starting Dec. 15 that will cut its broadcast footprint significantly. A diagram on the station's website (WMNF.org) shows the areas that will see reception worsen or end during construction, including parts of St. Petersburg, Largo, Seminole and western Pinellas County; the work may last anywhere from two weeks to a month, according to station manager Jim Bennett.

Bennett said the station may implement some of its format changes while at lower power, returning with a stronger signal on a better antenna and a new programming schedule in early or mid January. WMNF also expects to get a federal grant worth $51,000 targeted for improving its digital radio signal, which should also increase its traditional broadcast reach, he added.

"We're just hoping we don't have an emergency (requiring fundraising) before the work is done," said Bennett, who hopes to stage the station's next fund drive a week after WMNF is back to full broadcast power. "If we don't have that cash flow and a problem arises, we might be in trouble."

WMNF won't be implementing Wynne's biggest proposed change, building a new morning show around news and public affairs director Rob Lorei, mostly because Lorei himself resisted the idea — saying the station didn't have enough resources to create a competitive program. Fans of the station's current music-centered morning show also protested, saying the program offered an alternative to all the information-centered stuff on other channels.

Instead, WMNF will move liberal-centered news show Democracy Now to 9 a.m., with Lorei's interview show Radioactivity scheduled at 10 a.m.

The station's various other public affairs shows will air at 11 a.m., with a new block of afternoon music shows scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. Rebroadcasts of Fresh Air at 10 a.m. are gone, made unnecessary when rival WUSF-FM adopted a daytime news and information format in September that broadcasts the show twice daily.

The station's homegrown news report will air at 4 p.m., while every weekday evening and nighttime show moves up an hour, with the music beginning at 6 p.m. And each night will feature a different genre from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with blues on Monday, hippy rock on Tuesday, alternative rock on Wednesday, folk on Thursday and R&B on Friday.

Programmers at the station have been asked to apply for all the time slots, even those who know their shows are coming back. Wynne and Lorei expect to announce the final schedule with new programmers Dec. 18.

Changes in store for Tampa radio station WMNF-FM 88.5 12/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 3, 2010 9:24pm]

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