Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Radio Station Field Trip 34 - WRFU in Urbana, Illinois

Sign at WRFU (Photo: J. Waits)

This summer I was able to visit six radio stations in the midwest during my travels out there in July for the Grassroots Radio Conference. The easiest field trip to orchestrate was to community radio station WRFU-LP 104.5 FM. Located at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, the site of this year's Grassroots Radio Conference, WRFU is a sliver of a station nestled within a historic post office.

Entrance to WRFU (Photo: J. Waits)

WRFU first went on the air November 13, 2005. According to Station Manager Raymond Morales,

"Anyone can have a show on the air as long as they are trained, paid members, FCC compliant and not promoting hate speech. Otherwise, whatever the community wants to put on the air, we try to facilitate. It doesn't matter whether it is left or right, music or talk, atheist or religious. We are merely a channel (get it?). We are the easiest radio station to join and we represent a diverse group of voices across the community."

WRFU Studio (Photo: J. Waits)

The station airs a range of music, public affairs (in English and Spanish), and sports programs. Music shows include hip hop, dance, blues, world, gospel, experimental, jazz, R&B, and indie pop.  Public affairs programs run the gamut, ranging from a show about bike culture, to a political talk show, to programs focused on environmental topics. A number of these shows (including Radio Bilingue) are syndicated programs produced elsewhere.

WRFU board (Photo: J. Waits)

The low power FM station is a project of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center and according to its mission statement:

"WRFU is a progressive radio station collective committed to social justice, focusing on public affairs issues and the arts. WRFU airs opinions and debates in an open and diverse forum that focuses on educating and empowering the public. WRFU provides an accessible venue for an eclectic mixture of arts programming."

WRFU Studio (Photo: J. Waits)

In addition to WRFU, the Independent Media Center includes meeting space, an event/concert space with a stage, production equipment, a computer lab, and a library.

CD Library at WRFU (Photo: J. Waits)

Throughout the Grassroots Radio Conference, I would wander by WRFU and for the most part there was no sign of volunteers at the station. They did hold some WRFU studio training sessions as part of the conference program. Additionally, an entry on the conference schedule stated that, "Throughout the weekend, WRFU will be broadcasting content from the GRC on the air. Stop on by to get acquainted with the station, drop off an audio file to play, or do an interview.  Don’t be shy!"

Sign on window at WRFU (Photo: J. Waits)

Since the station was largely unoccupied (despite the above sign on the window that read "Station Occupation"), I asked one of the organizers if it would be OK for me to take a look around. I wandered about in the cozy studio, snapped some photos, and took in the view. WRFU has a glass window that faces a row of post boxes that border an active hallway that leads into the main part of the Independent Media Center. From a DJ's perch in the studio, he or she has a prime view of everyone coming into the building.

WRFU Studio (Photo: J. Waits)

With this visit to WRFU, I wrapped up my mini tour of radio stations in Champaign-Urbana. I didn't manage to see all of them (I would have liked to have seen the other college radio station in town - WPCD at Parkland College), but I was happy to see a broad range of stations.

Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (Photo: J. Waits)

See a complete list of all of my Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips here.

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