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Wisconsin Public Radio Logo.png
City of license Madison, Wisconsin
Broadcast area Madison metropolitan area
Branding Ideas Network
Frequency 970 kHz (also on HD Radio)
Repeaters W300BM 107.9 MHz
W215AQ 90.9
First air date January 13, 1922 (and as 9XM 1914-1922)
Format Public radio
Power 5,000 watts (daytime)
265 watts (30 minutes after sunset)
97 watts (60 minutes after sunset)
51 watts(nighttime)
500 watts (critical hours)
Class D
Facility ID 6139
Affiliations NPR
Owner University of Wisconsin–Extension
Webcast Listen Live
Website wpr.org

WHA (970 kHz) is a non-commercial AM radio station licensed to Madison, Wisconsin. It is owned by the University of Wisconsin and serves as the flagship of Wisconsin Public Radio's talk-based "Ideas Network."[1] The call letters are also used for WHA-TV channel 21 (20 digital), the flagship of the Wisconsin Public Television network.

A plaque at the University of Wisconsin–Madison calls it the "oldest station in the nation." [2] (Other radio stations, including KDKA in Pittsburgh, make competing claims to being America's oldest radio station.)


Experiments with spark gap transmitters stretch back to 1900. Professor Edward Bennett started using the call sign 9XM in 1914.[3] A year later, the call sign was transferred to the University of Wisconsin and used for many experiments in the Physics department. Professor Earle M. Terry managed many of these tests, and he eventually decided that the station should start making regular weather broadcasts. From December 4, 1916 onward, the station transmitted regular reports in Morse code.[3]

While most early radio stations in the United States were shut down when the country entered World War I, 9XM's early transmissions were considered important enough to continue, spending much of the war broadcasting weather information to ships sailing on the Great Lakes.[4]

Voice broadcasts took some time to work out, as there were some significant fidelity problems. Terry hosted a party at his home in 1917 to listen to the first scheduled audio broadcast, although few of the guests understood the implications of being able to listen to a piece of music that could just as easily be placed in a nearby record player.[5] The fidelity issues were worked out by February 1919 when a transmission was made for the U.S. Navy.

Regularly scheduled audio broadcasts began a year later in February 1920. A six-day-per-week schedule began on January 3, 1921, notable for the introduction of the first radio broadcast of a weather forecast. The station received its WHA call sign on January 13, 1922.[3] Wisconsin Public Radio still uses the former 9XM calls in a marketing sense, enshrining network donors who give more than $500 in a year into the 9XM Leadership Circle.[6]

The popular Canadian television series for children, The Friendly Giant, was created in 1953 on WHA. The show, starring Bob Homme, later moved to local sister station WHA-TV before making its way to Canadian television on the CBC Television network.[7] The long-running dramatic radio series Earplay was created by WHA in 1972.


WHA must gradually power down to 51 watts at sunset in order to protect Class A radio station CBW in Winnipeg at adjacent 990 kHz, rendering WHA's signal all but unlistenable even in Madison. WHA is relayed by a translator station within the city of Madison at 107.9 FM to serve downtown and eastern Madison, including the UW-Madison campus.[8][9] That translator had used the signal of Delafield-licensed WHAD for years (which targets Milwaukee), but in 2009 was transferred to the license of WHA. In early 2013, translator W215AQ 90.9 began translating WERN HD-3, which simulcasts WHA. The end result is WHA can be heard on both 107.9FM and 90.9FM in Madison.

Call sign Frequency
City of license ERP
Class FCC info
W300BM 107.9 Madison, Wisconsin 38 D FCC
W215AQ (via WERN HD-3) 90.9 Madison, Wisconsin 26 D (via WERN HD-3) FCC

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Coordinates: 43°02′30″N 89°24′31″W / 43.04167°N 89.40861°W / 43.04167; -89.40861