The following comments from the newsletter of DJ Ron, which talks about Vanderbilt University's radio station, WRVU, pretty much sums up what is happening (or had happened) to college radio stations across the country...
On Tuesday afternoon around 2:30pm, WRVU 91.1 FM went off the air. An agreement was made by the Vanderbilt Student Communications board to sell the broadcasting frequency to WPLN. WRVU will be off the air for the summer and will return next fall as an online stream and a WPLN HD channel. There are so many things that are wrong with this based on my perception.
WRVU was Vanderbilt's only media outlet that reached out to the Nashville community. One of the statements that VSC board say is that students don't listen to FM radio. That might be the case, but Nashvillians do. WRVU offers a wide range of music and cultural programming that no other station does. A lot of people grew up listening to WRVU and have a strong personal connection to it and the university because of it.
HD and online radio is not the same as FM and to say that is the same is both classist and elitist. Who actually has an HD radio? Online radio requires an internet connection on a computer or an advanced smart phone. This kind of radio should be free and available to all regardless of financial means. Making this content exclusive / unavailable to a lot of people is against the DNA of community radio.
People at WRVU had no say or representation in the decision making process. The Vanderbilt Student Communications board is made up of faculty and a few students at large. When I was at Vanderbilt the VSC board actually represented its members - with people from each division helping make the decisions. How can a board which doesn't include input from its members effectively govern it?
Every step of the way, this was handled by VSC board in a seemingly underhanded way. When the exploration of a broadcast sale was announced to us in September, I tried to register SAVEWRVU that night. Mysteriously, the three domains .org/.com/.net were bought more than a week before and were pointing to the insidevandy.com page (which had a seemingly biased article in place). The mysterious owner of the SaveWRVU domains agreed to point the sites to savewrvuradio, but I am wondering how much longer this will last. DJs and students were under the impression from the VSC board that changes would not be made during the summer / when the students were out. We didn't receive any notice and even the website wrvu.org disappeared on Wednesday.
As a Vanderbilt alumnus and someone who has had the honor and privilege of broadcasting on WRVU for nearly 20 years, I am personally appalled on how all this was handled. It makes me feel very upset at the both VSC board and Vanderbilt University for allowing this to happen.
Personally, I have been an emotional basket case most of this week. WRVU-FM has been a major part of my life for all these years. It is what kept me at Vanderbilt after my disastrous freshman year. Doing the LGBT show gave me confidence and freedom. Spinning the dance show allowed me to develop my skills as a DJ. Without WRVU, I wouldn't be doing who I am today.
Technology is changing and college students are often the first to jump on things like listening to radio programming via mobile phones or computers, but I think he brings up a good point that, for a lot of people, broadcast radio is extremely important as it's a cheap and easy way to get information. You can get a radio for $5 and it works without a subscription or any kind of special software. Computers aren't there yet.
And then there is the "public interest" argument... Many commercial stations today have no "local" programming, having replaced it with syndicated content from who knows where. And what commercial station is going to run something controversial like gay/lesbian programming?
As far a music goes, local/regional acts don't stand a chance on most radio stations these days, with many music programming decisions being made hundreds (or even thousands) of miles away, by people who know nothing about the communities their stations serve, beyond how many people in those communities that Arbitron says are listening.
College radio is a vital part of the community. Not only because of local programming, but because it's a great launching pad for both new broadcast talent and musicians.
I started in radio in 1991, when I was a Freshman in college, doing production work for WSMS (University of Memphis). After graduation, I worked at WUMS (University of Mississippi), where I hosted a weekly show featuring music and interviews from independent acts from around the country. When I started my radio promotion company in 1995, college radio was the vehicle that helps us get bands exposure.
Like Ron mentioned above, without college radio, I probably wouldn't be doing what I am today.
Something to think about... If you have a situation similar to the one going on with WRVU, I hope you'll consider these things before making a decision.
And I'll hope you'll add your "college radio stories" below, to show others reading this how important this medium is for the community...