News Local/State

Budget Stalemate Means Loss Of Local Content For Radio Reading Services

Chuck Archibald, a volunteer at the Illinois Radio Reader

Chuck Archibald, a volunteer at the Illinois Radio Reader since 1981, records the Christian Science Monitor. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Radio Reading Services broadcast content from newspapers, magazines and books for the blind and visually impaired.  Broadcasts on special radios and online are provided by several such services around Illinois, including the Illinois Radio Reader, operated by WILL.  But because of Illinois’ state budget impasse, the service will be changing its programming, come January 1st.

They’ll be dropping the local newspapers read on the air by 55 local volunteers, and only airing national programming from the Talking Information Center network.

WILL Station Manager Bob Culkeen says his staff has been talking about the future of the Radio Reader Service for the last few weeks, with hopes of providing some local content.

Culkeen says the Illinois State Library released some grant funding last week, but that $300,000 was exclusively for Illinois Talking Book and Braille Services.

“At that point, we had to say, where do we want to go with this?" he said.  "And we decided that it would be best to continue the service - only the national feed, and wait and see what happens with the release of the budget.  And when that happens and we see the budget, we see what is allocated for radio reading services we’ll be able to make a better decision.”

The end of state funding for the Illinois Radio Reader Service also means Service Coordinator Kathie Spegal’s position will end December 31st. 

That's also the last day volunteers will be reading newspapers until the budget impasse is solved.

Spegal says the Springfield-based Radio Information Service operated by WUIS/WIPA has also dropped its local programming, as of December 1st.  Those operated at Tri-States Public Radio in Macomb and WSIU in Carbondale are among those that have been able to keep their local broadcasts.  There are 11 Radio Information Service organizations based in Illinois.