Five months after its planned debut — following delays caused by technical issues, bureaucracy and logistics — the all-classical music station WSMR-FM 89.1 is finally broadcasting at full power.
Sarasota-based WSMR began full power broadcasts at 4 p.m. Tuesday, after a crew of about a dozen engineers and workers installed filters designed to keep the station's signal from interfering with the Coast Guard's Rescue 21 emergency broadcast system.
Though the interference issues surfaced in September, it took months for a solution to emerge, leaving area classical music fans outside the Sarasota area stuck trying to hear WSMR online while the station broadcast at low power.
WSMR was originally scheduled to debut Sept. 15, as part of an ambitious plan by Tampa public radio station WUSF-FM (89.7) to devote it's daytime hours to NPR's news and public affairs shows, shunting classical music to the Sarasota-based station. But attempts to place an antenna for WSMR on the current tower ran into trouble and then the interference issues with the Coast Guard surfaced.
Some experts have questioned whether WSMR will still reach many classical music fans in Hillsborough County, given that WSMR is broadcasting from a tower near Venice.
But the station's signal was clear at the St. Petersburg Times building in downtown St. Petersburg. WUSF said in a press release that the classical station should reach all of Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Desoto and Hardee counties, along with part of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Lee counties; federal authorities have yet to approve use of equipment that would boost the signal in the northern parts of the Tampa Bay area.
WUSF spent $150,000 — subtracted from the $1.2 million purchase price for WSMR — to build an antenna for the site, but the interference issues continued until the filters were recently installed. Early reports indicated WUSF may have to pay for the latest fixes, a cost originally estimated at more than $17,000.