Wednesday, February 6, 2008

True College Radio Dying Off?

An article in the student newspaper at University of Maryland, profiling the campus radio station's new General Manager raises some great points about the state of college radio and how it is threatened by various factors related to funding, control, outside regulations, and formatting decisions. The GM at WMUC argues that their station is one of the few remaining student-run freeform stations in the area and in the country and elucidates nicely why student radio and freeform programming are great alternatives to mainstream, corporate radio and its narrow playlists.

According to the GM at WMUC:

"One of the things that makes us different, especially in, you know, the D.C.-Baltimore-Virginia area is that we're one of the last true college radio stations left. And by true college radio station, I mean we're broadcast over FM, we're totally student-run, and we're free-format. We don't tell our DJs what to play. We give them a block of time and say 'Hey, this is your time; do what you want, and show us what you got.' And there's very few of those left in the country, period."

He goes on to argue that many universities have actually sold off their stations, made them commercial, or turned them into public radio affiliates. At WMUC he's trying to champion the indie-minded college station, with the students running the show and loose formatting rules. He also mentions that some stations who've lost their FM license transition to online-only stations, but that has its pitfalls as it doesn't carry the same cache.

He also points out that the station's mission is to be an alternative to "bland modern radio," saying:

"...Especially because of media consolidation, you can listen to radio stations in different cities that are all playing the same playlists over and over and over because they're all owned by the same conglomerates. I think people are starting to turn to stations like us for something different, for something that they didn't hear on bland modern radio. Over the last past decade or so, there's been this new appreciation for the culture of college radio, sort of an anything-goes kind of atmosphere. While we are trying to fulfill our educational mission, we do want to remain free-form because that's an important part of our mission."

This is what I love about college radio and what I also why I believe that it's an increasingly important bastion for independent programming.

P.S. I just read on WMUC's website that the station's been around since 1937 and that Connie Chung is a station's always fun reading station histories....

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