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Story about Transmitter on WWLTV

It looks like a bullet may have taken out Radio for the Blind’s transmission line
The station has changed to a smaller, less powerful line and not as many people can get the programs now. It’s also quite expensive to fix.

Meg Farris (WWL)

NEW ORLEANS — Is the rise in gun violence the reason a long-time radio station was knocked off of the air?

That’s what appears to have happened to a non-profit station that serves people who can’t see.

Radio for the Blind and Handicapped, recently noticed its signal was getting weaker and weaker. And then it was gone. Eyewitness News was shown a picture, from a football field and a half above ground and fixing it will be a big problem.Every day of the year, 24-hours a day, volunteers make sure the WRBH audience has something to listen too. For the blind, shut-ins, and immobile, the station broadcasts reading of the newspaper, magazines, bestselling books, and interviews about food, writers, and support for their special needs. But recently the signal went silent.

“It was the last Sunday of March, and the studio engineer called me and said, ‘We’re off the air,’” remembers Natalia Gonzalez, WRBH Executive Director.

So, they had the engineer climb the tower to investigate. “And when he called me back and said, ‘I have terrible news,’ my heart just sank.”

He discovered the problem 450 feet up. The transmission line has a bullet hole. So, it lost pressure, taking the signal off of the air completely. Just like after Hurricane Katrina, WRBH switched to a little cell tower on the station’s Magazine Street property, but that signal barely covers Orleans Parish, whereas before, the content was reaching listeners for 90 miles in every direction from its Chalmette tower.

“That is what we were told, that this is not an exception, that this happens a lot that people who love to shoot their guns, use transmission lines as targets,” she said.

Neighbors say several blocks away, people have been shot, and the sound of gunfire is increasing.

“More pops here and there, late at night when I come outside to put out the trash, or sometimes even in the house I’ll notice I hear noises that sound like gun fire,” said a woman who lives in Chalmette near the tower.

And there’s more bad news for the little nonprofit, that since the 70’s has survived on donations, grants, and volunteers.

“Initially we were told worst case scenario $100,000, but with supply chain issues manufacturing costs on the rise, my latest estimate from our tower climbing crew was $237,000. And we are only insured to $106,000,” explained Gonzalez.
The station is telling listeners who call in, to get the broadcast on its website streaming. That’s clear anywhere, but not everyone has computer access.

If you would like to help, you can donate: https://www.wrbh.org/donate

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WRBH 88.3 FM, Radio for the Blind and Print Handicapped, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is the only full-time reading service on the FM dial in the United States. At WRBH, our mission is to turn the printed word into the spoken word so that the blind and print handicapped receive the same ease of access to current information as their sighted peers.

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