* Read the TIMELINE — “From 10 Watts to Global Connection”
Public radio began in Louisville when the Louisville Free Public Library became the operator of WFPL in 1950. In 1954 WFPK made its debut. WUOL, operated from the University of Louisville campus, went on-air in December of 1976.
By the next decade a major landmark in local public radio was reached when WUOL and WFPK began broadcasting 24-hour programming. By the 1990’s the three public radio stations recognized the need to plan for changing times.
Public Radio Partnership was incorporated in 1993, with a community-based Board of Directors, unifying all production and administrative functions of the three stations. The stations also researched how better to serve the community and began a new era of public radio broadcasting in Kentucky on January 8, 1996 when each station launched a new format.
By 2000 Public Radio Partnership had moved into the historic Kentucky Electric Building in downtown Louisville. Public Radio Partnership would serve its community through on-air programs, welcoming the public into the building for events in the Performance Studio, and with extensive online offerings.
Public Radio in Louisville began in 1950 with WFPL when the Louisville Free Public Library became the first library in the country to own a radio license. The following year, WFPL garnered the George Foster Peabody Award for public service, an early recognition of its long-term commitment to quality.
In 1954 WFPK made its debut as a classical music station. WFPK and WFPL both predate the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 and the creation of National Public Radio in 1970. WUOL, operated from the University of Louisville campus, joined the trio of public radio stations in Louisville in December of 1976 and quickly established deep ties to The Louisville Orchestra with a documentary series about the orchestra and regular broadcasts of its concerts.
The advent of the 1990’s brought national attention to the concept of public broadcasting and passionate debates about funding it. All three public radio stations sought to continue their commitment to their radio audiences while recognizing the need to plan for changing times. This recognition led to talks between the University of Louisville and the Louisville Free Public Library and, in 1993, to the formation of the Public Radio Partnership with its own community-based Board of Directors. Since then, all administrative functions have been unified and an Executive Director was appointed, by the Board, to oversee day to day operations and long range planning.
The format change happened on January 8, 1996, ushering in a new era of public radio broadcasting in Kentucky. This change of format eliminated duplicate programming of classical music, a commitment which kept Public Radio Partnership true to one of its core values: the responsible stewardship of public assets. The leadership at WFPK and WUOL determined that their radio audiences would be better served by one classical music station, combining the best in programming and on-air hosts of the two original ones. WUOL became Louisville’s Fine Arts station.
This enabled WFPK to pursue a completely new format, involving management and production in intelligent risk-taking and change, another core value of Public Radio Partnership. WFPK became the AAA station providing a home for an eclectic mix of music and a diversity of artists not heard on commercial radio locally. WFPK also became the home to jazz, blues and bluegrass previously heard on WFPL. Focusing on emerging and independent artists, many featured artists are locally-based, ensuring that WFPK truly is Radio Louisville.
WFPL, Louisville’s NPR News station, retained its quality nationally-syndicated news and public affairs programming, together with its award-winning local news team. Transferring its musical offerings to WFPK meant that WFPL could broaden its range of programming to include not only extended international news but also a wide range of general interest, comedy, and drama programming.
Under One Roof
Public Radio Partnership entered yet another phase in its rich history having relocated all three stations to the historic Electric Building on South Fourth Street in downtown Louisville. Despite a fire in the summer of 1997 fundraising continued and Public Radio Partnership raised $5.3 million, including a $400,000 grant from nationally-renowned Kresge Foundation, to rebuild the building into a state-of-the-art digital technology broadcasting facility. Public Radio Partnership moved into the renovated building in April, 2000.