A big piece of college radio news this week was the announcement that students at WRAS-FM at Georgia State University (GSU) have filed an appeal with the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents, protesting the loss of daytime FM airtime for students over WRAS-FM and arguing that student funds were misappropriated. Last year, GSU administrators announced a deal with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), allowing the public broadcaster access to WRAS-FM during daytime hours. Student DJs are on FM at night and student programming can also be heard on WRAS’ Internet stream. WRAS supporters have been vehemently opposed to this arrangement and have been protesting ever since the decision was announced last year.
Radio Station Field Trips to Georgetown College station and RBMA Radio Pop-Up
Also this week, my radio station field trip series continued with a visit to Georgetown College radio station WRVG-LP in Georgetown, Kentucky. I also recently toured another station with college radio connections. RBMA Radio’s streaming pop-up radio station in San Francisco had a couple of former college radio DJs from KALX-FM working behind the scenes and on-air. A number of the station’s guest DJs also had college radio connections (including former KUSF DJ Irwin).
WKNC Chronicles 90+ Years of Radio History at North Carolina State
I was super excited to get a press release this week from North Carolina State University’s college radio station WKNC-FM about the launch of its new website. The wonderful part for me was to read that “along with the new look is a new online WKNC history exhibit that follows the station from its origins as WLAC-AM in 1922 to its present multi-media operation.”
In the release, WKNC station adviser Jamie Lynn Gilbert states, “This fall I attended a presentation on archiving college radio and its history at College Broadcasters, Inc. [CBI] National Student Electronic Media Convention…That, coupled with the digitization of 70 years of Technician [N.C. State’s student newspaper] archives really propelled this project forward.” According to WKNC’s statement, “The project, modeled after the University of Maryland Libraries’ ‘Saving College Radio: WMUC Past Present and Future‘ digital exhibit, features images and stories throughout the history of N.C. State student radio, including a listing of each student general manager.”
North Carolina State’s first college radio station, WLAC-AM (which stood for “We Lead All Colleges”), was on the air from 1922 to 1923, making it one of the early college radio stations in the United States (read about some others on our About College Radio page). Radio returned to campus in 1944 and by 1945 the school had an official campus-only carrier current station WNCS (“the Voice of N.C. State College”), whose call letters were changed to WVWP (“Voice of the Wolf Pack”) in 1947. The call letters changed to WKNC in 1958 and I was interested to read that the station set up a transmitter at another local college in 1959 and then worked with Duke University to set up an intercollegiate network. According to the WKNC website,
…WKNC became the first college radio station in the southeast to cover two independent campuses when a satellite transmitter was installed at Peace College. This partnership continued until 1965. Another innovation was the February 1960 development of an intercollegiate network with WSBS at Duke University to broadcast coverage of the Republication State Convention in Raleigh.”
WKNC also set up an early automation system in 1960, which allowed the station to set up 5 hours worth of programming in advance on tape recorders. The WKNC website states, “WKNC-AM engineers developed the ‘WKNC Tape Control System,’ which allowed ‘the complete automatic use of the studio tape recorders. Up to five hours of programming can be run with the tape control system without an engineer or announcer on duty. This automatic programmer is believed to be the only one of its kind in operation at any college station in the South.'”
The radio station went FM in 1966, with the launch of WKNC-FM. Since not many students had FM radios at the time, a new carrier current station (WPAK-AM) started broadcasting to select dorms in 1968 and was in operation for a few years, whereas WKNC-FM continues to broadcast today.
I’ve spent a lot of time evangelizing the need to preserve college radio history (I organized and spoke on the aforementioned panel during the CBI convention in Seattle and was the keynote speaker at University of Maryland’s “Saving College Radio Symposium”) and it warms my heart to read that some of my efforts have helped to spark projects like the online history exhibit on WKNC’s website.
If you are involved in college radio, I’d encourage you to find inspiration from these projects and begin archiving your station’s history. Additionally, I’m working on the Library of Congress’ Radio Preservation Task Force and my particular interest area is college radio. If you are aware of collections of college radio materials, please let me know, as the Task Force is continuing to sign up affiliate collections and archives (which include audio recordings as well as radio-related materials).
We cover the culture of college radio every Friday in our College Radio Watch feature. If you have college radio news to share, please drop us a note at EDITORS at RADIOSURVIVOR dot COM.