As Warrenton radio station WARR-1520 AM celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, it is also marking a major milestone in its long history — the addition of FM frequency 103.5.
The Rev. Dr. Lilipiana Darensburg, CEO/president of WARR, explained that several years ago, the Federal Communications Commission offered a window of opportunity for AM radio stations to move to FM if they wished. The idea sounded wonderful. WARR was required to power down at 6 p.m. and had petitioned the FCC to be able to broadcast Warren County High School evening sports events.
However, adding an FM frequency would also mean purchasing a variety of equipment, including a translator to convert the AM signal to FM, and labor to install everything.
Darensburg said that the county allocated $5,000 in funds to the station in the 2018-19 budget and an additional $5,000 for the current fiscal year as part of appropriations to nonprofit organizations. In addition, the community contributed $5,000 to the Gladys Rogers Darensburg Foundation, which helped with the purchase of equipment and to continue WARR’s internship program for high school students. Ultimately, the radio station spent more than $20,000 to add the needed equipment.
Darensburg said that the station faced other considerations, such as how far the station’s signal could reach. She explained that there have been situations in which some people could receive the AM signal clearly, while other neighbors could not. The signal also would go in and out as people drove.
Adding the FM frequency would eliminate those problems. The WARR team originally sought other towers in Warren County to determine if they could carry the station’s FM frequency, but that did not work out. The station agreed with engineers that it would not make sense to utilize a different tower when it could make its existing tower taller while ensuring that its antenna pointed toward Warrenton.
After a process which took a total of two years, including FCC approval for the translator and the addition of equipment to the station’s tower, WARR’s FM frequency of 103.5 officially went on the air on Saturday, March 14, with the capability to broadcast 24 hours a day.
Darensburg said that WARR is now working to tweak its equipment to ensure the best signal possible for its listeners.
Radio fans who love 1520 AM should not worry, however. Darensburg said that WARR will continue its AM broadcasts as it has over the past 50 years. The station also will continue to stream its programming online.
Darensburg said that the FM frequency has made a huge impact already, with the signal being heard in Littleton, Henderson and Oxford, as well as Clarksville, Va.
Everyone at WARR is proud of the station’s latest milestone. Darensburg expressed appreciation to those involved in making the move to FM possible, including the county, community and the radio station broadcast team.
“Every announcer at WARR has worked together as a team to make this happen,” she said.