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For XPN2, see WXPN-HD2.
Wxpn logo.png
City of license Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Broadcast area Delaware Valley
Branding 88.5 XPN
Frequency 88.5 (MHz) (also on HD Radio)
88.5 HD-2 for XPN2
First air date 1945 (carrier current on 730 AM)
1957 on 88.9 FM
Format Adult Album Alternative
ERP 2,650 watts
HAAT 365 meters
Class B
Facility ID 68229
Transmitter coordinates 40°02′19.70235″N 75°14′12.84779″W / 40.0388062083°N 75.2369021639°W / 40.0388062083; -75.2369021639
Callsign meaning W eXperimental Pennsylvania Network
Former callsigns WXPN-AM (1945-1980)
WQHS (1980-2003)
Former frequencies 730 AM (WQHS) (1945-2003)
Owner University of Pennsylvania
Webcast Listen Live
Website WXPN Online

WXPN (88.5 FM) is a non-commercial, public radio station operated by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia that broadcasts a music radio format called adult album alternative (AAA), along with many other format shows supported all with an indie slant. It may be best known for the World Cafe music program, which is distributed by National Public Radio to many non-commercial stations across the United States. The call sign, which is often abbreviated to XPN, stands for "Experimental Pennsylvania Network". Its transmitter now resides at the antenna farm complex in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia.


While the University of Pennsylvania has been involved with radio since 1909 when a wireless station was located in Houston Hall,[1][2][3] WXPN itself first came into existence in 1945 as a carrier current station at 730 AM. In 1957, it was granted a full license as a 10-watt college radio station at 88.9 FM in addition to their frequency of 730 AM. From then into the mid-1970s, WXPN was a student activity of the university and as it grew, the station initiated unique programming designs including one of the earliest freeform radio formats, Phase II, in the 1960s. Prominent local DJ Michael Tearson got his start at WXPN in the late 1960s with a radio show The Attic. Tearson went on to replace Dave Herman at WMMR in 1970. In 1975, a controversial broadcast on the talk show The Vegetable Report led to an obscenity complaint with the FCC, which found the charges serious enough to decline renewal of the broadcast license. This incident (December 1975) marked the first time FCC pulled a license on grounds of obscenity. But a citizen's group organized to petition the FCC to consider XPN's unique service, and with a pledge from Penn to create positions for professional staff to run the station, the FCC allowed the license to renew.

With this new staff of five managers, WXPN became a steady fountain of high-quality folk, jazz, new and avant-garde music and public affairs programming produced by a combination of Penn students/alumni and community volunteers. Veterans of WXPN that have gone on to notable achievements in other areas include Broadway producer/director Harold Prince (the station's first program director), NBC news correspondent Andrea Mitchell (former news director); jazz producer Michael Cuscuna (former DJ) and Echoes producers John Diliberto and Kimberly Haas (former producers of Diaspar and other XPN shows).

Shows that have been staples on XPN since the '70s include The Blues Show with Jonny Meister (Saturday nights), Sleepy Hollow (Saturday and Sunday morning quiet music shows), Star's End (ambient and space music Saturday night/Sunday morning) and Amazon Country (lesbian-oriented music and programming on Sunday evening). XPN also broadcasts the Folk Show with Gene Shay on Sunday evening, which started at WHAT-FM in 1962 and continued on WDAS-FM, WMMR, WIOQ and WHYY-FM but moved to WXPN in the '90s when WHYY changed to a talk format.

In 1986 the station qualified for membership in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and began the legal process to move its frequency from 88.9 to 88.5 in order to increase signal coverage. Beginning the late 1980s, the programming and personnel were shifted from its diverse volunteer voice to full-time salaried programmers. Penn student radio activity is currently carried out on WQHS.

In 1988, WXPN started Kids Corner, a daily interactive radio show for kids hosted by Kathy O'Connell. Kids Corner has won numerous awards, including the Peabody Award and the Armstrong Award.

In 2004, WXPN moved to new facilities at 3025 Walnut Street, where the radio station shares space with a music venue called World Cafe Live. (World Cafe Live is an independent for-profit entity that pays a yearly fee to license the World Cafe name from WXPN.)


WXPN carries primarily locally-originated programs, supplemented by a few nationally syndicated shows.[4] The station's weekday programs are all produced by its own staff, including World Cafe, a show developed and hosted by WXPN deejay David Dye and now distributed by National Public Radio.[5] The station also produces most of its night and weekend specialty programs, including Kids Corner with Kathy O'Connell, The Geator's R&R, R&B Express with legendary Philadelphia deejay Jerry Blavat, The Blues Show with Jonny Meister, The Folk Show with Gene Shay and Sleepy Hollow, an early morning program of quiet music. The station's syndicated offerings include The Grateful Dead Hour with David Gans, The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn, Echoes with John Diliberto and Mountain Stage with Larry Groce.[4]

WXPN also broadcasts the Penn Quakers men's basketball games.[6]

Additional frequencies[edit]

The station has three additional full-time repeater stations and a part-time repeater:

  • WXPH 88.7 FM, Middletown, PA (York, Lancaster) [ERP: 75 watts horizontal, 7000 watts vertical / HAAT: 216 meters]
  • W259AU 99.7 FM, Harrisburg, PA (Harrisburg) [ERP: 10 watts / HAAT: 205 meters]

(From 1993 to 2007, the WXPH call letters were used on a WXPN repeater on 88.1 in Harrisburg.[7] WXPN traded that facility to Four Rivers Community Broadcasting in return for the two facilities listed above.)

Portions of WXPN's schedule are simulcast on WKHS 90.5 FM, Worton, MD (Chesapeake Bay/Baltimore, Maryland area)


In 1970, WXPN-AM's operations moved from Houston Hall, directly in the center of campus, to a larger, more private location, at 3905 Spruce Street. The FM radio station became entirely professionally run by 1980, while the AM radio station was still student-run. WXPN-AM then became WQHS, which stands for Quad Hill Superblock (referring to student dormitories on campus), housing mainly freshmen. As of September 2005, the radio station is located on the 5th floor of the Hollenback Center, on the far east side of campus.

In 2003, the WQHS radio tower, formerly on top of Harnwell College House, fell in a severe storm. As a result, WQHS now broadcasts exclusively over the Internet, in an eclectic freeform radio format.


  1. ^ "The Wireless Club Station - UP". Retrieved 2012-11-06. 
  2. ^ "A Brief History of the Club". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  3. ^ "The Wireless Club". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  4. ^ a b "WXPN Program Guide". WXPN website. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  5. ^ "David Dye, NPR Biography". National Public Radio website. Retrieved 2009-04-12. 
  6. ^ http://xpn.org/xpn-programs/upenn-basketball
  7. ^ "Call Sign History". Retrieved 2014-06-27. 


External links[edit]

Other station data[edit]

Coordinates: 40°02′36″N 75°14′32″W / 40.0434°N 75.2421°W / 40.0434; -75.2421