Why do I always feel like I’m the bearer of bad news about college radio?
In another sad sign of the times, Clover Park Technical College in Tacoma, Washington has decided to cut costs by passing along control of its 51,000 watt college radio station KVTI to Washington State University’s Northwest Public Radio. As a result of this change, the formerly top 40 station known as I-91 FM began piping in classical music programming and NPR news on June 21st. An article in the Tacoma News-Tribune stated that:
“The new programming at 90.9 FM doesn’t require a person, let alone students, to operate the studio in Lakewood. WSU’s radio arm, Northwest Public Radio, is based in Pullman. It sends feeds to Clover Park and 14 other participating stations in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.”
It’s really sad to see another college turning control of its radio station over to an outside entity, especially when the previous format seems to have been doing quite well. According to the Tacoma News-Tribune piece, Clover Park Technical College plans to eliminate its radio broadcasting program:
“The college also said it was paring back programs that offer less promising careers, and that radio broadcasting is struggling along with other media. ‘We can’t sit back and invest money in something that doesn’t have a strong future for students,’ Clover Park spokesman Shawn Jennison explained this week. ‘If a program is considered successful, you have to have more than a dozen students interested.'”
This is a comment sure to send chills down the spine of college radio DJs everywhere, as radio programs and radio stations are notorious for attracting a low percentage of students. Their corresponding value, however, isn’t necessarily linked to campus popularity. The article points that out in sharing the perspective of KVTI’s former station manager, program director and radio instructor John Mangan, who said that the station was extremely popular:
“Mangan…said even as the station counted down to its inevitable closure, it grew in popularity. Its audience peaked to an all-time high of 160,000 listeners per week over the winter, and hovered around 120,000 listeners when it closed this month. He said it also had plenty of local sponsorships and support from local businesses. And while the broadcast program had a 20-student maximum, 19 students were enrolled when the closure was announced last year. The last six students graduated this month. He estimates that more than 500 students enrolled in the program since 1982, and many went on to work at radio stations all over the country.”
I fear that more and more college stations may be heading in this direction, which unfortunately means that there will be fewer independent radio outlets on the air. When the same programming gets duplicated on a number of different stations, I think it’s an unfortunate loss for local communities.
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