College radio today definitely faces a number of challenges, as discussed in a Jan. 9, 2008 piece "Local college radio stations fight to be heard in a homogenized age" in the Toledo City Paper. Decreasing listenership, declining funding from colleges, and audiences who may be turned off by non-standard radio are factors in this. The article quotes the Program Director of WBGU-FM (another station where I was a volunteer) in Bowling Green, Ohio, who also happens to be a grad student working on a thesis related to "college radio's relevance in a digital era." Intriguing!
Yet, I was a bit disturbed that one of his conclusions is that "The programming on college stations online needs to be tailored to the known audience." While I do think it's important to be aware of one's audience, "tailoring" to an audience starts to sound more to me like what commercial radio stations do and what college stations try to avoid. It's a fine line, because college radio does wants listeners, but typically doesn't want to pander to its listeners. So, how can a college station remain experimental and independent, yet at the same time not alienate potential listeners who may not be as open-minded as the DJs and station staff? I'm sure this is a debate that rages at many stations today.
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