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Monday, December 6, 2010

A million different voices speaking in tongues

Here's a real bummer of a story -- colleges are selling off their radio stations. The student disc jockeys and reporters will still be on the internet, but aren't we all? It won't be anywhere near the same.

Having spent many hours behind the mike in our youthful days, we're horrified. It's as much about educating the broadcasters as it is about edifying the audience, and sometimes the results are magical. As a wise philosopher once put it: "We learned more from a three-minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school."

Moreover, these stations have devoted off-campus listeners who won't be able to find anything like their content. Taking college radio off the air is one of the dumbest ideas that the higher education bean counters have come up with yet -- and that says a lot.

Comments (15)

Lewis & Clark neglected to renew its license a couple decades ago, and for quite a while broadcast on AM through the campus wiring. An upgrade to the student center made that impossible, so they went pirate. That ended when the dial ran out of empty space, and they've been internet-only ever since. No one listens. I had a show for three years and I don't think anyone ever listened. I'd hate to see other schools go the same route.

I wonder how much money from terrestrial radio conglomerates is involved with this as well. It's not just because college stations put the lie to the idea that somehow there's an insane demand for Nickelback or Phil Collins. The big conglomerates, ClearChannel in particular, are in a really bad way, and the last thing they want is for potential advertising audiences to move to university stations.

That's the biggest reason why the Dallas area is the largest city without any college radio (the nearest station is up at the University of North Texas in Denton, fifty miles north and completely impossible to pick up on most nights). Every time someone started suggesting the idea of local universities starting a college station, absolutely AMAZINGLY those same universities started seeing huge contributions from local radio owners, promising to assist local Radio/Television/Film majors in other ways if they just drop the station ideas. Combine this with overly obnoxious radio "personalities" and playlists seemingly designed to encourage listeners to move to iPods, and it's no wonder that our local radio is a wasteland. (Just to give you an idea, the first time I ever heard most of my favorite Dallas bands on the radio was after I moved to Portland in the Nineties. You didn't have any college or real alternative stations to play Reverend Horton Heat or Pump'n Ethyl in Dallas, and the local stations were too busy pretending that Pearl Jam and Soundgarden eight times an hour was more relevant.)

Most college stations don't have commercial licenses -- at least the ones I worked at. The lone exception with which I was connected was WYBC-FM at Yale. They were one of the original university FCC licensees, and we had commercials. I'll never forget the Morrison Coat Store, read by my buddy Peter Deloro.

I was still in High School when I got my FCC license to broadcast on the local college station. Back then, they acted like it was special permission from God (the feds) to allow you the ability to switch a transmitter on, and God Forbid, let your signal get too strong or shift off frequency.
We all studied hard, took sample tests and a professor took us all in a van to Portland to take the sacred test. I remember some place called Rosies that served a slice of cake the size of a whole cake. Crazy days!

My FCC test was in lower Manhattan. I remember going over there around the holidays. When you got your license, the station hung it on the wall.

I got my FCC license at WUSC in Columbia, South Carolina and spun wax at WSBF in Clemson.

I have not listened to FM radio since installing satellite radio in my car a few years ago.

A notable exception was a marvelous day of car travel in western North Carolina recently, listening to WNCW broadcasting from the campus of Isothermal Community College in Spindale, NC.

I was a classical music DJ on WVTI in Valparaiso IN while attending Valparaiso Technical Institute. It was an experience not to be withheld from anyone wanting to do this.

I even beat out the Chicago Classical Music stations (WFMT!) when the first complete recording of the Nutcracker was released. What a coup!

WVTI was AM over the power lines system and was licensed to do so. We were responsible for all operations, including the certification of compliance, although a teacher actually signed off on it.

By the time I got to VTI, I also had my First Class Radiotelephone license. No coaching from teachers, but I did have a mentor who cheered me on.

I still remember the fellow's name who signed it. His penmanship was impeccable, and as a result, I never forgot his name, something I am generally good at!

Alternative Radio is doomed, in my view, if the college stations go for the price of the air rights to the occupied spectrum.

Seems like more of the same - less alternative communication, and from what I hear apparently infiltrating what is left in order to dilute what can be broadcast.

Public access to alternative sources may be more necessary than ever as we enter this period of uncertainty.

Yes there is the internet, but what if that changes and access becomes more difficult?

So sad also for the reasons you all reported how wonderful it was for youth to be involved, the pride, the excitement of being in the radio arena.

Kinda sad. I went to OIT down in K Falls. The station at OIT was the only one that played music worth listening to.

The University of Washington could likely get many tens of millions for KUOW-FM as it is in the commercial band at 94.9 FM. The U-Dub would still have a station in the non-commercial band, KEXP 90.3 FM.

Trivia time...the 94.9 FM signal in Seattle was originally owned by Fisher Broadcasting, which donated it to the University of Washington in the late 50's or early 60's because they didn't think FM radio was commercially viable. I'm sure they've kicked themselves MANY times over that decision!

I had a 3rd class FCC license in the 70s. Took the test in Boston. And I trained other students how to pass the Element 9 Endorsement section. I also served as a daily news director my senior year. (Ah, the AP TTY machines). We didn't do commercials but we loved lots of PSAs. I'm sure it's all changed now.

My college started out with a 10 Watt license. However, while I was there, another school who was desperate for bandwidth and for various reasons needed to use our frequency paid for a 100 Watt FM transmitter, the FCC license upgrade from class D to class A, and the engineering to change us to a new frequency and claim our old freq. Sweet deal.

PS - That station boasts being the oldest of its kind in one aspect... but I don't care to ID myself that much (hence no call letters).

one of the presets on my car radio is the Mt Hood community college jazz station. I listen to it a lot. KMHD

but KMHD got assimilated by the Rightwing Totalitarian BORG occupying the cut-out shell of OPB FM, so now KMHD can't say anything anti-conservative.

In the CIA playbook for taking over peace-loving minding-their-own-business countries, Step #2 is Attack and Occupy the broadcast stations; transmit propaganda. That's a fact, btw.

When colleges want to sell their radio stations, the public We, the People better buy them and own them and (let the students) run them -- same as the Portland community owns and runs KBOO 90.7 FM -- without corporate commercials.

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