On Friday the volunteers and DJs at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU)’s student radio station WZRD 88.3 FM were called into a meeting and told that all shows were being suspended at the Chicago-based radio station. It’s a familiar-sounding story that calls to mind the shut-downs at KUSF and WRVU. The collective of WZRD DJs (DJs at the station are anonymous and are referred to as “Wizards” on the air) issued the following statement:
“WZRD Chicago, 88.3 FM has experienced a hostile take-over by the administration of Northeastern Illinois University. On Friday, with less than 24 hours notice, the membership of WZRD was called into a meeting with a secret agenda: The destruction of WZRD. The staff was locked out of the station and all shows have been indefinitely suspended. WZRD has been replaced by an iTunes playlist courtesy of the Department of Student Activities.”
A post by Northeastern University of Illinois on its official Facebook page yesterday states,
“Northeastern Illinois University’s WZRD radio station is currently operating at 88.3FM and will continue to broadcast freeform programming and comply with FCC requirements. The WZRD student organization is currently under university review and on inactive status. We look forward to working with the student organization to bring their voices back to the airwaves.”
A WZRD DJ who attended Friday’s meeting tells me that the director of Student Activities called for the changes at the station. Student Activities oversees all of the clubs on campus and they have in the past deactivated clubs for infractions. WZRD’s FCC license is up for renewal and is set to expire on December 1, 2012. The FCC requires that renewals are submitted four months prior to license expiration, which places the renewal deadline on August 1, 2012. Although I still don’t know specific details about why the meeting was called, DJs have hinted that the license renewal process may be related. Back in 2005, WZRD was shut down after it was revealed that its license had not been renewed on time. The FCC granted the station a Special Temporary Authority (STA) at the time and WZRD resumed broadcasting while the license was being renewed.
Attendees at the Friday meeting apparently did not document the discussion. A WZRD DJ told me, “no one from NEIU administration took any notes – nor would they allow us to audio record.”
WZRD supporters are already organizing via Facebook and a meeting is scheduled for 7pm tonight in the NEIU Library, 4th floor.
Fans of the station have been sharing comments about the importance of the station, including the following:
“Killing off WZRD and the Free-form radio is just another nail in the coffin for NEIU, which already has no sports, no school spirit, drastic reduction in activities, and very little in the way of an on-campus presence.”
“This is an outrage!! WZRD has been a pearl in the grime of Chicago radio for at least 4 decades!! To just end like this is a major slap in the face to the cultural life of Chicago. Don’t the arts matter anymore?”
“WZRD, as a musicologist, you were the number one education and inspiration that built music into my life and soul. You were musical genius on the airwaves. I am heartbroken that you’ve been taken over by generic programming. Now all of the brilliant un-famous music of the world will die a silent death. Rest In Peace.”
There are few details about the shut-down and the future of WZRD at this point and messages to the current management of WZRD and to Northeastern Illinois University have not yet been returned.
Founded in the early 1970s, the WZRD schedule includes a mix of music and public affairs programming. The live music show Thursday Night Live features a range of musicians performing live from the station every week across a range of genres. In addition to original programming produced at WZRD, the station also airs the syndicated programs Democracy Now and Free Speech Radio News.
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