Champaign, Illinois - July 10, 2023 - WEFT 90.1 FM, the beloved community radio station, proudly commemorates its remarkable journey of over 40 years as a pioneer in broadcasting. Since its establishment in 1981, WEFT has remained committed to its mission of providing diverse programming and uniting the cultural fabric of Champaign and its neighbor city, Urbana.
In the mid-1970s, a dedicated group of radio enthusiasts, artists, and community-minded individuals came together to realize the potential of creating a platform that would transcend the limitations of traditional broadcasting. Their vision led to the birth of WEFT, with the call letters derived from a retired navy ship radio station. The name "weft," a weaving term symbolizing the interweaving of different threads, perfectly captured the station's goal of reflecting the diverse culture and viewpoints of the listening community through its on-air programming.
After several years of fundraising, organizing, and overcoming various challenges, WEFT finally took its first steps toward the airwaves in 1980 as a cable FM station. Located at its current home on 113 N. Market St. in downtown Champaign, the station made its inaugural official broadcast on September 26, 1981, transmitting at 90.1FM with a modest power output of just under 1,000 watts.
Driven by its commitment to community service, WEFT continued to expand its reach and influence. In 1988, the station seized the opportunity to increase its broadcasting power to 10,000 watts of stereo, enabling it to extend its coverage to multiple counties and towns in East Central Illinois. Throughout the 1990s, WEFT witnessed significant growth in its volunteer staff and programming capabilities. In 1992, the station acquired the building that has housed its studios since its inception, solidifying its presence in the community. The transition to a 24-hour format in 1993 opened doors for more community members to express their voices on the airwaves.
WEFT's commitment to progress and innovation has been unwavering. The year 2001 marked the fulfillment of the building mortgage and celebrated 20 years of successful broadcasting. In 2003, the station underwent major renovations, enhancing both the aesthetics and accessibility of the building in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. WEFT's dedication to delivering high-quality programming led to continuous efforts in upgrading technology, studio renovations, and equipment replacement in the following years.
While facing occasional challenges, such as a lightning storm damaging the transmitter in 2008, WEFT remained resilient and focused on its mission. By installing a state-of-the-art solid-state transmitter, the station was back on the airwaves, providing uninterrupted service to its loyal listeners.
2020 presented other challenges (not including the Covid pandemic which nearly shut down the radio station). Vicki Niswander, the WEFT Board Chair, explained that in 2018, the station was put on notice that the radio tower which held its broadcast antenna had been condemned. So in 2020, a new tower was located and rented in nearby Mahomet, Illinois. At the same time, the WEFT Board decided to buy a new antenna to replace the 30-year old one. The $40,000 cost of the new antenna, along with the move to the new tower, was financed through generous donations from WEFT listeners.
As it enters its fifth decade of broadcasting, WEFT remains committed to serving the community and striving for excellence. With a constant focus on improving technology, programming, and creating new opportunities, the station ensures that listeners and community members have a platform to voice their opinions and share their stories.
In addition to its over 40 years of radio broadcasting, WEFT takes pride in being a vital part of the vibrant cities of Champaign and Urbana. Champaign, known for its rich history and cultural diversity, offers a wide range of attractions, including world-class educational institutions, thriving arts and entertainment scenes, and a vibrant culinary landscape. Its neighbor city, Urbana, complements this dynamic atmosphere with its own unique charm and community spirit.
Urbana is home to the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign, as well as world-renowned music venues including Rose Bowl Tavern, the Canopy Club, and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The city lies in a rich agricultural area as one of the nation’s main resources for both corn and soybeans. Urbana also is home for health care, finance, high-technology, distribution and manufacturing industries.
Listeners can tune in to WEFT 90.1 FM through http://new.weft.org/listen/ or popular streaming platforms such as VLC Player, Winamp, iTunes, or QuickTime, to stream from their computer
For more information about WEFT 90.1 FM and its programming, please visit www.weft.org.
WEFT 90.1 FM