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Early Radio History at Temple University

Temple University News from 1947

1947 issue of Temple University News courtesy Jose Fritz (TenWatts.blogspot.com)

Arcane Radio Trivia’s Jose Fritz (one of the first people who I profiled for my Radio Obsessives series) just wrote up a nifty post about the early days of radio at Temple University in Philadelphia.

He unearthed a 1947 account from the Temple University News which reports on the status of the nearly-built carrier current radio station WRTI. Today, the FM station is a public radio station devoted to jazz and classical music, but it was initially developed as part of the curriculum for Temple’s Radio, Speech and Theater Department. Created in partnership with Philadelphia commercial radio station WFIL,  WRTI’s early leadership included several men who had educational radio backgrounds at University of Maine and Northwestern University.

The station was built around the time that students were creating campus-only stations all over the country. Right in WRTI’s backyard, nearby Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, and Swarthmore College already had radio stations in place by the mid-1940s and were mapping out a regional collegiate network in order to share programming.

Fritz also dug up a great timeline that provides more factoids about the birth of WRTI. According to the timeline, WFIL made a $50,000 grant to Temple in order to start the radio program. The station’s call letters stood for “Radio Training Institute.” It’s fascinating to read about the early days of radio curriculum, especially since I’m in the midst of researching the development of the radio program (home of KCSF) at San Francisco City College in the 1940s. Although much of my radio research has been focused on student-built extracurricular stations (like WABQ at Haverford College), I’m more and more fascinated by the ways that radio stations have been used as learning labs.

 


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