Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Tale of Two Stations at Notre Dame (and Bowling Green) and Not Enough Radios

It's true that at many college stations the typical listener may not be a college student. I know that listeners for my college radio shows have been eclectic--ranging from teenagers to senior citizens to record store employees to prisoners. So, it's not really a surprise that Notre Dame is having trouble attracting student listeners to its classical station WSND 88.9FM. In an attempt to gain more listeners they've broadened their playlist to include "college rock" music, but acknowledge that one of the big problems may just be that students don't own radios anymore. Wow...not only does college radio have to compete with commercial radio, iPods, and the Internet for listeners, but it also has to contend with the fact that radios themselves are disappearing from our landscape. According to The Observer article, " of the major obstacles the station faces is the sheer lack of radios on campus." Is this true, that college students don't own radios anymore?

Notre Dame has 2 college radio stations and the WSND website provides a nice history of the radio stations on campus, describing periods when stations operated on carrier current, AM and FM. When my husband was in college he had a show on the then-AM station WVFI (formerly WSND-AM) at Notre Dame, which since 2000 has been an Internet-only station. They claim to be Notre Dame's only student-run radio station and their format is primarily indie label college rock.

In contrast to WVFI, WSND has long-time staff members and includes members of the community in addition to students. According to the website, "WSND is a fine arts and educational station owned by the University of Notre Dame and operated by students from Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College, as well as volunteers from the surrounding communities." Staff at WSND do include students, including the current Station Manager and Music Director, so I'm confused about why WVFI is student-run and WSND isn't. I'm also curious to learn more about the two stations and how their cultures differ from each other.

When I was at WBGU-FM in Bowling Green there was also an AM commercial station on campus WFAL. When I was there (1995-1997), my perception was that the station DJs and staffs were VERY different, with the AM station attracting pre-professional telecommunications students and the FM station attracting music fans (students and volunteers from the community--some of whom are still there today). Is this still the case at WBGU and WFAL? And, do many schools have multiple stations? How do the stations work to differentiate themselves? I can see that WBGU is actually simulcasting some WFAL shows, so it looks like the stations are working more closely than when I was there in the 1990s.

Notre Dame Historical Note: WVFI alums include musician Ted Leo (DJ and Music Director) and Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis (Sports Broadcaster).

BG Historical Note: I just read that WFAL started as a pirate radio station in 1970. Very interesting, considering that they were seen as less indie/underground than the other campus station WBGU when I was at Bowling Green.


Radio Steve said...

actually WFAL is simulcasting several WBGU shows.

Jennifer Waits said...

oops..that's what I meant to say! Thanks!

Tim Minneci said...

I was at WFAL from 94-98, and I remember there definitely being two different styles for FAL and BGU. WFAL pretty much just stuck to music that was sub-mainstream but not so indie you wouldn't have been able to buy it at Finders or Madhatters. BGU seemed more focused on the eclectic and underground.