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The Current flows to Austin's airwaves

Minnesota Public Radio's The Current service is now on the air in Austin.

The alternative music format, which has been on the air in the Twin Cities and Rochester since launching five years ago, is available in Austin at 103.9 FM.

"From my perspective, we want to be in as many places as we can be where there's a population not being served," said Jim McGuinn, program director for The Current, which is based in St. Paul. "We want to grow The Current to serve as much of the stage as we can. We've been broadcasting in Rochester since the station launched, and we're ready to expand our service in southern Minnesota."

When The Current went on the air in early 2005, the service could be heard primarily in the Twin Cities and Rochester. It has since expanded to include the Mankato-St. Peter area, as well as Collegeville-St. Cloud and Hinckley.

"Most of the growth has been when we manage to find translators available," McGuinn said. "They're easier and more affordable than to try to fit in a signal from scratch. That's why we've got Austin but don't have Duluth."


The extent of a translator signal is normally less than about 15 miles in circumference, McGuinn said. A signal from a transmitter, such as The Current's Rochester frequency (88.7 FM), has a longer reach. Even at that, however, The Current's Rochester signal could not be reliably heard in the Austin area, he said.

The Current prides itself on playing music not heard on most other stations, from new to nostalgic, whether rock, Americana, alt-country or even the occasional Sinatra tune. The station is regarded as one of the most innovative public radio formats in the country. McGuinn himself came from Philadelphia last year to work at The Current.

The relatively small size of Austin as a radio market is not a deterrent for a public radio station, McGuinn said, because selling advertising is not the goal.

"One of the good things about public radio is that with a membership model, you can justify even a small extension," he said.

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