Thursday, October 18, 2012

Radio Station Field Trip 36 - WIBN in Oxford, Indiana

WIBN sign (Photo: J. Waits)

During the family vacation portion of my trip to the midwest this summer, we took a drive from Chicago to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. Along the way back to Chicago on the afternoon of Thursday, August 2, we traversed through small towns off the main highway.

Ode to Dan Patch on Oxford, Indiana water tower (Photo: J. Waits)

In the town of Oxford, Indiana, I was mesmerized by the mysterious "Dan Patch 1:55" sign atop a roof. As we drove through the town square, my husband spotted a sign for a radio station. We continued on our way and stopped to take a look at a Dan Patch tribute along the side of the road (it turns out that he was a horse made famous for a record-breaking 1:55 minute mile). After we'd solved the Dan Patch mystery, my mind turned back to the radio station that we'd just passed. Promising my family that it would be a quick trip, I asked them if it would be OK if we stopped by the radio station to see if anyone was there. They surprisingly agreed.    

WIBN's home in Oxford, Indiana (Photo: J. Waits)

WIBN is located on the town square in Oxford, next to the Squeeze Inn and a Pizza King restaurant. It was pretty sleepy out and some of the nearby buildings had "for sale" signs posted. When we drove up to the WIBN building (the sign outside read 98.1 Gold WIBN), another car had just parked in front of the station. Two men were exiting the car and walking into the WIBN building when I approached them to see if I could possibly tour the station. As it turned out, one of those men was WIBN station owner and General Manager John Balvich. He was accompanied by one of the station's on-air personalities.

Broadcast studio at WIBN (Photo: J. Waits)

Balvich said that he'd be happy to give us a quick tour of the radio station. He told me that he bought WIBN 17 years ago in August 1995. The station is part of a small group of three radio stations that he owns in Indiana. The other two stations, WLQI (aka Q97.7 Classic Hits) and WRIN Easy 1560, are located in an old school house in Rensselaer, Indiana.

Back up oldies music at WIBN (Photo: J. Waits)

WIBN airs the syndicated "True Oldies" format, which features music from the 1950s to 1980s. Additionally, the station has a few local shows as well as regional news, market updates, a community calendar, weather and sports (including high school football and Indianapolis Colts football games). On Saturday mornings from 9 to 11, WIBN broadcasts the "Real Big Deal Show," which is essentially a live on-air auction. Items auctioned off include deals from local businesses (such as discounted oil changes, golf outings, doughnuts, bingo, meals, theater tickets, etc.). Listeners can call in to a special number to bid on various offers.

Flyer for the Big Bargain Show (Photo: J. Waits)

When we stopped by at 3pm on a Thursday, there was no live DJ in the booth at WIBN. Syndicated "True Oldies" programming was on the air while a few staff members did behind-the-scenes work at the radio station. Balvich told me that he's been working in radio since 1974, although his radio experience dates back further to his days working on a ship's radio station on his way to Southeast Asia in the 1960s. Following that he went to broadcast school and ended up doing sports play-by-play, a morning show, and also worked in radio sales. Because of his broad experience, he decided to run radio stations.

WIBN Break Clock (Photo: J. Waits)

Balvich also shared with me a story about how WIBN got knocked off the air for a few months in 2010 when some farm equipment crashed into the WIBN tower. Such are the dangers of rural radio.

WIBN board (Photo: J. Waits)

Thanks so much to John Balvich for giving me a spontaneous tour of WIBN. It was nice to get a glimpse of a rare, locally-owned commercial radio station.

EAS machine and CD players at WIBN (Photo: J. Waits)

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

No comments: