Alternate title: How Important is College Radio?
If Radio as an entertainment medium is to survive; vital. College Radio is the alternative to corporatist radio and is fertile ground for new artists and music. The big three radio groups control (Clear Channel, Cumulus, CBS) something like 75% of the radio revenue while owning 13% of the commercial radio stations. Against that wall, the remaining radio groups and independent operators hurl themselves to make a living. While there are few (precious few) commercial independent operators who do break new music, perform community service and provide a valuable asset to their city of license, the majority of the remaining 87% of radio stations run some sort of repeater/automated format.
In this risk-adverse society, which large radio group is willing to take even small calculated risks?
Who is going to replace Dick Clark and where will that person come from? By the way, God bless Dick Clark but, man, enough already.
Where will the newest crop if disk jockeys come from?
If one wants to hear something new, or at least different, there is no better place to listen than a student-run college radio station.
It was in this setting that several college boards had a Eureka! moment when they discovered that those FM licenses were actually worth money. Money! and in not-so-small amounts in several cases. The collective wisdom is that kids these days don’t listen to radio, nobody will miss those programs anyway. Even so, when Rice University sought to transfer KTRU there was a large backlash from Alumni and the student body. When the University of San Francisco sold KUSF to Entercom, they did so over Christmas break. At Vanderbilt University, the WRVU staff was locked out of the studio. The whole sordid tale can be found in 2011: The Year that College Radio Fought Back and College Radio’s fight for FM.
There are other stations whose fate is less well known, no doubt.
It is disappointing to see the various college boards deciding that broadcast radio is no longer desired and to see the campus radio station regarded as an extracurricular activity or so much excess real estate.
There are still many college radio stations in this area that are worthwhile to listen to, just to hear something other than blended crap, super specialized satellite radio channels, or some personality-less internet stream with computer-picked songs.
So kudos to WRPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), WVKR (Vassar College), and others like them for having student-run radio stations and not selling out or morphing into the borg-like collective that is NPR.