Thursday, February 7, 2008

Should College Radio Stations be Accessible or Subcultural Spaces?

I've been a DJ at several college radio stations and at each school it seemed that the majority of students were completely unaware of the existence of the campus radio station. Often college radio stations cater to students who have more obscure tastes in music and their staffs typically mirror that. In fact, I think it's a huge benefit that at many schools the college radio station is an oasis for kids who may feel like they don't fit in with the general campus scene. This was definitely the case when I was at Bowling Green State's radio station WBGU in rural Ohio. I'd come from a big city where it was relatively easy to find like-minded music fans, but in small towns in middle America it can be more of a challenge. WBGU was a place where many of the indie rock fans, punk and emo kids, local band members, and other folks with non-mainstream music tastes connected, thereby building an amazing subcultural community in a very conservative town.

An article today from the University of North Carolina's student paper discusses the sense of disconnect that some college students feel from their school's radio station, WXYC-FM. In this instance, a student body presidential candidate (who also happens to be a major label campus rep) actually initiated a meeting with her campus station in order to discuss making the station more accessible to students. I'll be curious to see how this story plays out and hope that it doesn't mean that current staff and fans of the station will become displaced or disenfranchised.

From the article:

"UNC student body presidential candidate Kristin Hill said WXYC has 'kind of lost touch with student interests.' Her campaign platform includes plans to work with the station to help it cater to more students, especially by working with other student organizations...Hill also is a student representative for WEA, the parent company of Warner Bros. Records. But she said her affiliation with the label has nothing to do with her interest in helping to make changes with WXYC...And Hill said she doesn't see this as a conflict of interest; she is open to the possibility of collaboration between WEA and WXYC. 'Whatever we can do at Warner without overstepping boundaries of what WXYC can do - we can collaborate that way.' Regardless of her motivations, Hill said the station should be more accessible and sees future changes at the station as an important step."

P.S. Cool historical notes: Rick Dees is a station alum (back when it was carrier current WCAR) and in November 1994, WXYC started broadcasting online, making it the "first radio station in the world to offer a live Internet simulcast of an off-air signal."


Kyle said...

just curious...when did you work at WBGU? I was there from 2002-2006.

Jennifer Waits said...

Hey there! Always great to meet other WBGU folks. I was a DJ there from 1995 to 1997.

Kyle said...

that sounds like a fun time in college radio...when it was a bit more relevant. did you ever know Justin Hemminger or Lisa Faigenbaum? Not sure if they were after your time..

Jennifer Waits said...

I didn't know Justin or Lisa. Yep, it was a fun time in the late 90s. I've been involved with college radio since then and I think it can still be pretty fun and you can see from the blog, it seems to really depend on the station and the staff.