In 1989, WHIL-FM started the WHIL Radio Reading Service for radio listeners who were blind, visually impaired, or physically unable to access the contents of newspapers, books, and magazines. Volunteers of the reading service usually read newspapers, books, and magazines with their voices broadcast over a radio sub-frequency for special radio receivers.
The receivers for the reading service were loaned by the station and their users were allowed to keep them for as long as they needed them. Donations for the reading service were provided by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, local foundations, businesses, private contributors, and grants. The volunteers for the reading service were auditioned to ensure listeners hear quality reading and to assure them the readers were not paid for their services.
By June 1997, the WHIL Radio Reading Service was serving about 300 local radio users with about 50 regular volunteers, according to a news article published by the Mobile Press-Register (about 60 radio users were being served when the reading service began in 1989). By then, Jonathan Adler, the director of the reading service at the time, was looking for new readers to audition between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on a weekly basis. By then, WHIL-FM was set to broadcast radio programs from the 1940s on Sundays between 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. According to Jonathan Adler in the news article, the reason for the alternate programming on Sundays was because they suited many listeners who probably grew up listening to those radio programs (he said the median age of listeners of the reading service was about 65).
By October 2007, the WHIL Radio Reading Service was serving about 450 local radio users with 80 volunteers, By this time, the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services had decided to withdraw an annual donation of $42,000 to the reading service and reduce spending by 20% until September 2008 for the Alabama Radio Reading Service at WBHM-FM in Birmingham, Alabama (the decision was made two months after a new contract between WHIL-FM and the government of the state of Alabama was signed). According to a news article published by the Mobile Press-Register, the department decided to use the money withdrawn to pay for employment counselors and equipment to help residents in the Mobile area who were blind or visually impaired find employment or stay employed. A clause in the contract for WHIL-FM allowed the department to do this by posting a notice 30 days in advance. The article quoted Jim Carden, the department's assistant commissioner for services helping blind and deaf persons, as saying WHIL-FM’s program was a valuable service and saying the primary service of his department was finding employment for people who are blind by using every available dollar to support the effort. The article quoted Mario Mazza, the general manager of WHIL-FM at the time, as saying his station was very concerned because $42,000 was "really the entire budget" for the WHIL Radio Reading Service, including the salaries of two paid employees such as the reading service’s director Brad Martin, who could not predict a complete cessation of funding, according to the article. WHIL-FM appealed for help from state legislators such as Chad Fincher, the state representative from Semmes, Alabama who asked the Department of Rehabilitation Services to extend funding beyond the 30-day notice, as he felt it was important to give WHIL-FM an opportunity to have a little more time to seek other sources of funding. Even though state funding for the WHIL Radio Reading Service was extended to March 2008 afterwards, Mario Mazza was quoted by the Mobile Press-Register as saying the program could not continue beyond that month without other funding. So the station planned to mention the reading service and their need for grant applications during their fundraising effort, which took place on Saturday, October 13th, 2007, under the name "Overture". The news article quoted Brad Martin as saying the reading service was not mentioned very much during past fundraising efforts for WHIL-FM. He was also quoted as saying he was certain “Overture” was going to make the service the focus in how he and other employees would appeal to listeners for funding.
By Friday, July 1st, 2011, the WHIL Radio Reading Service had ceased to exist due to Spring Hill College selling WHIL-FM to the University of Alabama, which made the radio station an affiliate of the Alabama Radio Network on this day.
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