Last December I reported that students at Wellesley College radio station WZLY 91.5 FM were concerned about forthcoming changes to the station related to campus construction and a reduction in space. Well, now we are hearing that students may be giving up the WZLY 7 watt class D FM radio license.
After a collective vote last year, WZLY will exclusively broadcast on the web at WZLY.net. WZLY was the first women’s college radio station in the United States, but the members of the organization decided that selling the frequency would ultimately be best for the station…After the renewal process, WZLY will collaborate closely with the administration to find a buyer for the frequency. The possible value of the frequency ranges widely and depends on the interested buyers…
One of the main factors that led to the collective decision to sell WZLY’s frequency is that in order for WZLY to continue broadcasting, it must follow all rules and regulations outlined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). For example, the station must complete extensive station logs that include entries pertaining to equipment status, equipment calibration, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and, when applicable, the recording of tower light outages. There are also various regulations regarding the antenna, the amount of power, transmitter metering, bandwidth, field strength and many other aspects of the radio.”
WZLY did not broadcast over FM during the 2013-2014 school year due to an extended period of construction on campus. Its notification to the FCC states,
On September 26, 2013, licensee notified the FCC of its temporary cessation of broadcast operations, while the college made extensive renovations to its main studio space…Due to circumstances beyond licensee’s control, including an unusually harsh winter, the main studio renovations have taken longer than anticipated. Licensee anticipates resuming broadcast operations prior to the beginning of the next school year…”
On August 25, 2014 (in its license renewal application), WZLY alerted the FCC that it had resumed its FM broadcasts. The station move was also completed over the summer.
A couple of years ago Wellesley celebrated the 70th anniversary of student radio on campus (the first station WBS AM launched in 1942) and WZLY is still a very popular student activity. In addition to concerns about FCC regulations, the students at WZLY told the Wellesley News that the broadcast range of the station is very small, with most listeners tuning in online. According to the article,
…the 91.5 FM frequency only extends to the Wellesley College campus and various areas of the town of Wellesley, therefore restricting potential radio listeners to a particular circumference…Most of WZLYs listeners already stream via the WZLY.net web link as opposed to through the 91.5 FM frequency.
‘Our job is first and foremost to play music and to be a community. None of that will change when we start broadcasting exclusively on the net,’ said Victoria Uren ’17, a DJ at WZLY.
‘It has been amazing to have been broadcasting for so long, but now the cost and effort of keeping it up very much outweigh the benefits,’ Xhori said. ‘There is a fine line between preserving tradition and becoming archaic.'”
I’ve seen a number of class D stations give up or donate (Reed College donated the license for KRRC to Common Frequency) their FM licenses in recent years, but have yet to be aware of a class D license sale, so it will be interesting to see what happens to WZLY.