Thursday, April 23, 2009

College Radio in the Wall Street Journal

It's a rare day when college radio gets mentioned on the front page of the Wall Street Journal (thanks to my husband's eagle eyes this morning for catching it), and as you might guess, it's in the context of money. Today's article, "New Unrest on Campus as Donors Rebel," begins:

"Financially strapped colleges are angering their benefactors by selling school radio stations, auctioning Georgia O'Keeffe paintings and dipping into their endowments for purposes their donors may not have intended."

As the piece points out, in the current economic climate, many campuses are looking to cut things that many alums and donors hold near and dear, including radio stations. I really really hope this doesn't become a growing trend, as it saddens me when colleges give up student-run stations.

As recently seen when Texas Tech's student radio station KTXT was shut down without warning, when alums and fans get angry, they will come together and protest.

The Wall Street Journal article touches on the plight of St. Olaf College radio station WCAL (see my post from last year covering this), stating that the school, "...continues to fight a legal challenge by angry donors to WCAL, the college radio station the school sold five years ago." The former WCAL is now The Current, an "indie"-rock oriented public radio station in Minnesota.

To see the latest on the WCAL protests, visit the SaveWCAL website. And, to learn about what some of the former KTXT staffers are up to, visit The Llano Idea.

And, if you have a second, take some time to tell your college campus why you value student radio. I'd rather praise now than have to protest later.


Anonymous said...

While WCAL began from physics experiments and became a student-run radio station in the early 1920s, it had long since become a professionally run radio station.

WCAL was the first listener-supported radio station in the county (donations began in 1924) and a founding member of National Public Radio (NPR). At the time of it's sale, the station was a 100,000 watt non-commercial licensed public radio station with a repeater station in Rochester, MN.

WCAL was truly an "indie" station with a budget "in the black" at the time of the sale due to its generous donors/members. Not all public radio stations can claim that.

St. Olaf College still has a student run radio station - KSTO - a frequency that is only available on campus.

Anonymous said...

Correction: WCAL was not a student-run radio station.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify regarding "it saddens me when colleges give up student-run stations": WCAL was not a student-run station.

Jennifer Waits said...

Thanks for all the clarifications about WCAL. Indeed, although college-owned, it wasn't a student-run station at the time of the sale.

Although the Wall Street Journal article was touching on the plight of a public radio station being sold off; it raises a point that also applies to the many student-run stations that have been sold off, shut down, etc. KTXT is one such example, of a student station shut down by the school as a cost-saving move.

Anonymous said...

WCAL was not "college-owned" -- something that even the St. Olaf College Board of Regents did not understand when they "sold" it in 2004. The college was the trustee for a public / federal non-commercial educational license and facilities that were built and maintained almost entirely by donors.

This is an important distinction for other listener-supported stations. If their existence is due, in great majority, to the munificence of donors, then they may be charitable trusts and NOT under the "ownership" of the institution with which they are affiliated.

Unfortunately, most student-run stations are not directly supported by their listeners and rare mainly supported financially by the institutions they represent. That means they have little recourse when that institution wants to rid itself of the station.