WHRB Jams Airwaves

Students Complain About Station's Strong Signals

Many first-year students living in Old Yard dormitories said they can't tune their stereos and have difficulty hearing telephone conversations because of strong radio signals issued by Harvard's station, WHRB.

Of 39 Weld and Matthews Hall residents interviewed, 29 said they could hear music on their phones and 25 said the interference was "annoying."

One said he could not use his stereo, television and VCR because of the interference. Many students added that they plan to call the station with complaints about the interference.

"Unfortunately the interference is part of living next to a radio station," said WHRB General Manager Jeremy A. Rassen '95.

The radio station's transmitter has been housed in Holyoke Center for over a decade. It is unclear whether the interference which first-years are complaining about has increased this year.


Dan H. Schumann '93-'94, WHRB'S chief engineer, said the station's old transmitter must produce a 7,000 watt signal in Harvard square in order to send a 3,000 watt signal beyond Cambridge. He said the extra wattage "just goes into the sky."

FCC engineers said, however, that the excess wattage is dispersed around the immediate area and causes interference.

Even though several WHRB staffers have said the station's signal, an effective 7,000 watts, exceeds the legal Federal Communications Commission (FCC) limit of 3,000 effective watts, an FCC spokesperson said the regulation doesn't apply to WHRB's outdated transmitter.

David F. Mazieres '94, a member of WHRB, also said the station is not violating any regulations with its wattage.

First-years said they can hear WHRB on the telephone when they place calls and that their stereos produce a large buzz when not tuned to a station. Both are signs of radio interference, said Dan Fontain, an engineer with the FCC in Washington, D.C.

"It totally fouls up my stereo," said Ray W. Liu '97. "It totally pisses me off. We spent so much time trying to figure out where this interference is coming from, and it's from Harvard."

Residents of Grays and Hurlbut Halls reported interference problems as well.

Several first-years said they were not happy living next to WHRB'S transmitter and that they wished the station could move it.

Rassen said WHRB tentatively plans to move the transmitter to Boston as early as next spring.

WHRB is not financially responsible under FCC regulations for any interference problems, according to Tony Amoroso, an electrical engineer at the FCC's Washington Broadcasting Division.

But WHRB may be legally required to help residents alleviate the effects of interference by distributing information and recommendations, Amoroso said.