When I wrote my recent profile of Carleton College radio station KRLX, I was made aware of a new service coming to Taiwan on September 1st called Oh! Zone. KRLX will be one of the many English-language college radio stations being featured on this online radio station oriented towards students in Taiwan who are interested in studying abroad.
I'm always very interested in any sort of concerted effort to celebrate college radio culture and this seems like a very ambitious project. On their website you can take a look at some of the sample programs from participating stations, including some from the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Their website lists approximately 25 U.S. stations including WXPN (University of Pennsylvania), KEXP (University of Washington), KBCS (Bellevue College), WVUD (University of Delaware), KVCU Radio 1190 (University of Colorado, Boulder), KLPI (Louisiana Tech), KLCZ (Lewis-Clark State College), WWSU (Wright State), KUSC (University of Southern California), WGWG (Gardner-Webb University), WLNZ (Lansing Community College), WNCW (Isothermal Community College), KUCI (University of California, Irvine), KUNM (University of New Mexico), KPLU (Pacific Lutheran University), KUT (University of Texas, Austin), KTBG (University of Central Missouri), Radio K (University of Minnesota), WLRA (Lewis University), KBVR (Oregon State), WUOG (University of Georgia), WODU (Old Dominion), KTUH (University of Hawaii, Manoa), and WXJM (James Madison University).
According to a letter sent by OhZone Program Director Jon Roberts to participating schools, "The OhZone is a collection of English-language campus and Community radio stations from around the world. We are a free English-language tool for Taiwanese listeners. Our target audience is Taiwanese students wanting to study overseas. We provide them a choice of music and accents to listen to while researching universities."
I've heard some buzz recently from schools who were contacted by OhZone and there seems to be some confusion among the U.S. radio stations about whether or not their radio programs can be re-broadcast by other entities online or oversees and what the ensuing licensing implications may be. According to OhZone, "We have obtained a certificate from the music licensing authority here MUST - meaning we can legally rebroadcast programs - and we pay the royalty fee." I was told by OhZone that participating stations are required to provide playlist information to them so that they can fulfill licensing and royalty requirements.
In any event, it's a cool idea to set up a 24/7 schedule that is peppered with specific content from radio stations from all over the globe and it's the first time that I've heard of college radio being highlighted in such a way. Other similar attempts have included XM Radio's "Student Exchange Program" (where different college radio stations curated 2 hours of programming on satellite radio station XMU) and the "College Radio Tuner" for the iPhone (featuring streams from IBS member stations); but I haven't seen something like Oh! Zone before, where specific programs are hand-picked for the schedule.
[By the way, there isn't much in the way of student radio in Taiwan itself. The first station run completely by students, VNNCU, began in 1963 at National Chengchi University. Unfortunately I get scary warning messages about potential hacker attacks when I try to visit their website, so much of their programming remains a mystery to me.]
To learn a bit more about Oh! Zone I conducted email interviews with a few of the folks responsible for developing it, including Brian Hockertz, the Director of the Oh! Study Education center, and Program Director Jon Roberts. I was surprised to find out that college radio is just one part of a whole promotional program for study abroad. Who knew!
Spinning Indie: I'm curious about how came up with the idea for Oh! Zone?
Brian Hockertz: I started developing the concept of the Oh! Zone almost two years ago in response to a need to create a medium to promote overseas schools, study abroad and also a way to promote learning English and create a better understanding of western culture in Taiwan. We wanted to create a community of listeners that will stick with us over time and we could provide them with high quality programming coming from campus radio stations to give a taste of life on an overseas campus. FYI, the Oh! Study Education center is the largest overseas education promotion and student travel center in Taiwan.
Spinning Indie: Why do you find college radio to be a compelling way to share the experience of campus life?
Brian: We promote overseas campuses in many ways, such as publications, web content, exhibitions, local campus outreach, etc. We also have extensive experience running promotions on several local radio stations and were aware of the effectiveness of this medium. The Oh! Zone seemed like the a logical step for us to take in the development of our activities in Taiwan. Additionally, establishing a radio station allows us to provide a greater variety and diversity of content from around the world to our audience in Taiwan, and give them a better feel for life on an overseas campus.
Spinning Indie: Do you have a background in radio? college radio?
Brian: Personally, no, with the exception of conducting many promotional activities and being a regular interviewee on local radio stations. However, both Jon and a new addition to our team, Rick Monday have extensive experience in the radio industry. Rick will be taking over as our Program Director and Jon will remain with us in a consulting role. Rick has close to 40 years in the radio industry and he is the only foreign DJ in Taiwan to have won a Golden Bell Award (sort of like an Emmy).
Spinning Indie: How are you determining the program schedule?
Brian: I provide a little direction in terms of general themes and direction of the programming, but Jon and Rick are the ones crafting the final schedule. We are trying to create a program schedule with a broad variety of different programs reflecting overseas campus culture. At the same time, we have to create appropriate content for different days (i.e., week day vs. weekend) and times during the day to match the audience that will be listening. As we are a non-commercial station, we have a lot of leeway in terms of being able to create a program schedule that suits the needs of our audience and station rather than advertisers.
Spinning Indie: Are you focusing on music programming only or will you also include talk shows, sports, etc?
Brian: Most of the programs will have a mix of DJ talk and music, but we already have several talk shows, such as a vegan cooking show, a tech show, movie review show, etc. A bit of an eclectic mix.
Spinning Indie: How are you selecting stations and who has joined up?
Brian: Usually it has been based on two different criterion: first, we have approached schools that are working with our student counseling/travel center to see if they would be interested in participating in the Oh! Zone, and second, we have been searching for high quality programming from all campus radio stations that would fit into our schedule.
Spinning Indie: Tell me more about "Women Rule Night."
Brian: Jon and Rick could probably tell you more about this, but we thought it would be a good way to show diversity on campuses and reach out to a female audience. Sometimes, female issues/performers take a bit of a backseat in Taiwan, and we wanted to be able to spotlight them on the Oh! Zone.
Jon Roberts: Both Rick Monday and I had strong willed mothers and sisters. The rule in our homes was "if men would listen to what we women say you won't go wrong so often." Plus, female announcers have always been well received in Taiwan. The first shows submitted to us were from CHLY (the voice of the VIU campus): In the Red and Pandemic Pulse. Both have female announcers and both received great comments when we tested the OhZone on Taiwanese. Rick and I wanted to create a format that ensured those CHLY announcers would always be on the OhZone as well as a format that reached out to other female announcers. We're expecting big things from Women Rule.
Spinning Indie: Is there college radio in Taiwan? How does it compare to U.S./Canada/European campus radio?
Brian: It exists, but it is not very well developed. Usually, the stations would be directly attached to a university journalism/mass comm department and programming is a part of the curriculum.
Thanks to the Oh! Zone folks for talking to me about their venture. It will be cool to see how all the programming shapes up as of September 1st.