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College Radio Watch: Alum Calls for Return of KTRU’s Old FM License to Rice, WRAS Update + More News

Last week we reported the news that University of Houston is planning to sell the license for the former KTRU-FM frequency in Houston, Texas that it purchased from Rice University back in 2011. I’d been wondering how KTRU supporters were reacting to the news, as they waged a fierce battle in their efforts to keep the FM license at Rice as a college radio station. In a piece for the Houston Chronicle this Wednesday, former KTRU Station Manager Joey Yang calls for the return of the license to Rice University. Yang writes, “…this creates a second chance for Rice to do the right thing and pay its debts to its students and Houstonians. Rice should buy back 91.7 FM.”

In his passionate editorial, Yang outlines how important KTRU was to him personally and criticizes how the deal went down in secret. He states,

KTRU was one of the biggest reasons why I chose to attend Rice. Growing up in Ohio, there simply weren’t radio stations like KTRU: eclectic, daring and enlightening. It was a window into so many different places in the world – 1940s Texas blues, Nigerian rock, underground hip-hop, contemporary classical and the best of what Houston’s music scene had to offer…

KTRU would come to be the defining aspect of my time at Rice. I didn’t just sleep in the station while training new DJs at 4 a.m., or spend more hours each week managing the station than studying mechanical engineering. I and our 20 other student directors developed leadership skills, industry knowledge and exposure to culture from across Houston and the world that we couldn’t find elsewhere, curated by 120 Rice and community DJs. For all its eclectic programming and eclectic culture, KTRU was the type of exactly the kind of ‘quirk’ Rice alums will tell you about.

The station was built by students, tinkerers, engineers and music lovers. It wasn’t a gift Rice gave to students – KTRU was funded and built from scratch by the students slowly over 45 years. The station started in 1967 as a two-watt AM station, buzzing along through wires strung through Rice’s underground steam tunnels. In the coming decades, students would earn an FCC license to begin FM broadcast, begin 24/7 broadcast and ultimately boost their power to 50,000 watts covering the area from La Grange to Beaumont to Galveston. When Rice sold KTRU, Rice sold the labors of its students, profiting off the hundreds of thousands of hours of sweat equity on the part of students and Houstonians who built the station into one of the most influential and culturally significant college stations in America.”

Although Rice’s student radio station is now mostly an online affair, it will soon be broadcasting over low power FM (LPFM). Yang argues that Houston needs a college radio station with much greater coverage than that, saying that the return of the 50,000 watt signal would mean that KTRU’s audience, “would reach back out to all the suburban kids, delivery drivers, artists, office workers and fans of all stripes in their homes and in their cars with an eclectic mix of the best and newest of the area’s musical diversity.”

WRAS-FM: A Year After Student Programming is Removed from Daytime FM (it’s still on at night!)

Earlier this week during an interview, I was asked about the latest on WRAS-FM at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. Radio Survivor readers will recall that a little over a year ago, a deal was made with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB). As part of that deal, the public radio group was given access to the WRAS FM signal during daytime hours, which ousted student programming to the station’s online stream. Despite vocal protests, it seems that not much has changed. The most recent news that we reported on was back in March, 2015, when students filed an appeal against the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, arguing that the school misused student activity fees in order to upgrade the WRAS signal, which is now being used largely by an outside public radio group.

I was glad to see Rodney Ho’s article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution yesterday, as he provides a much-needed update on the situation at both WRAS-FM and GPB. One of the saddest parts of the story is that WRAS has lost not only a big chunk of its audience, but it’s also lost prospective DJs. According to the piece,

Although the students still have the evening and overnight hours on the FM dial, losing the daytime hours was a big blow to their overall audience. During the day, their listeners can reach them only through TuneIn (which has a modest 2,800 followers), Streema, the station app or its website.

With only a small fraction of their former listeners during the day, DJs have seen requests and reaction to ticket giveaways dwindle. The station was once considered one of the most influential college radio stations in the country in terms of breaking and highlighting new music.

‘We used to get tickets to just about everything from the Variety Playhouse, the Masquerade, Star Bar,’ said Christopher Hoyt, a rising GSU junior and WRAS’s promotions director. ‘We were even getting tickets to movies and festivals. But after the change, there was a dip not only in how much support we got from venues but we couldn’t even give all the tickets away.’

Hoyt was also dismayed that all the media coverage last year gave many people the impression ‘our station had been killed. It’s much harder to recruit students to come in. We had the lowest number of applicants this summer in awhile. We had to reopen the application window.’

He doesn’t feel GPB does much to promote WRAS either during the day: ‘Everything they’ve done is calculated to detract power from us. I still feel like they want the entire station eventually.'”

Ho also gives an update about the March, 2015 appeal. He writes, “…if board members decide GSU is in violation of its rules, the university may have to renegotiate the deal with GPB and include student involvement in a mediation process.  It has yet to respond to the appeal and could choose to do nothing.”

College Radio Coverage on Radio Survivor This Week

It’s been a busy week for college radio news, perhaps because the school year is ramping up. In case you missed it, here are the other college radio stories that we reported on this week:

College Radio Station WVBU Penalized for Missing Public File Documents and For Moving File Away from Main Studio

Tip: ask the FCC for permission before moving your public file

RIP Student Media Advocate Dan Reimold

College Media Matters scribe leaves the world way too soon

Visiting College Radio Station KWVA at University of Oregon

My radio station tours continue!

College Radio Watch on the Radio Survivor Podcast

I discuss a Vampire Weekend member’s college radio past and give details on CBI’s NextRadio contest

Notes on Community Radio and Democracy in Delhi, India and Mkushi, Zambia

University of Delhi to air candidate statements as part of Student Union elections

Extra College Radio Tidbits for Patreon Subscribers

I keep adding college radio extras for Radio Survivor’s Patreon subscribers who are donating at least $5/month. Please consider donating, as it will help us grow Radio Survivor. Also let me know if you have ideas about bonus content that you would like to see or hear there.

Medaille College Withdraws its FM Application

On August 25, the FCC dismissed an application from Medaille College for a new non-commercial educational radio station in Amherst, New York. Medaille was part of a group of 9 competing applicants for a new station. These applications were filed back in 2010. In 2011, the FCC winnowed the applicants down to 3 and in 2012 it dismissed one of those applicants. Medaille College reached a settlement with the other remaining applicant, Calvary Chapel of the Niagara Frontier, and as part of that August 20 settlement, will receive $20,000 for expenses. In a declaration contained in the settlement agreement, Medaille College President Kenneth Macur states,

Applicant has entered into a Settlement Agreement with mutually exclusive applicant Calvary Chapel of the Niagara Frontier whereby in part Medaille has agreed to voluntarily withdraw the Medaille Application, thus allowing CCNF’s Application to be granted.”

In looking through prior FCC filings, it appears that Medaille College and Calvary Chapel were in discussions as recently as 2013 about coming up with a time-share agreement, however it seems those talks ended up resulting in Medaille College bowing out completely. It’s sad, in that it was so close to having a terrestrial radio station. Medaille College has operated a student radio station in the past, known as WMCB “the Lizard” and its application made it clear that the new FM station would involve students. According to its 2010 application,

The proposed FM station will be used as an outlet for educational programming to listeners of all ages and for cultural enrichment. The facilities will also provide news and information to the campus community about the College and its programs and services. Additionally, the station will be integrated with the existing online student-run radio station ‘WMCB,’ which operates within the College’s Communication program, offering preparation for careers in broadcasting, advertising, public relations, journalism, and digital media.”

Students Invited to Apply for Next Generation Radio Project

CBI is once again offering a special radio journalism training program for students before and during its annual convention. Applications are now open for the Next Generation Radio Project, which is being sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio News and NPR. According to CBI, “Selected students will have the opportunity to learn from professional journalists during a week-long program in Minneapolis, Oct. 19-24, 2015. Next Generation Radio is a digital-first, multimedia journalism and professional development project for undergraduate and graduate students who are focused on journalism and broadcast media.” Applications are due by midnight Friday, September 18th.

Billboard’s 5 “Best” College Radio Stations

Not sure how I missed this a few weeks back, but Billboard has also weighed in with its unscientific look at the “best” college radio stations in the country. On its list: WHRU-FM (Hofstra University), WERS-FM (Emerson College), KASC-AM (Arizona State University), WHUR-FM (Howard University), and KALX-FM (University of California, Berkeley). While it’s at least a somewhat diverse list, I would argue that a few of the stations on the list aren’t really student-oriented college radio stations. Every list like this is subjective and there’s no agreed-upon definition of college radio, so it’s unlikely that you will see Radio Survivor compiling a list like this in the near future.

WBAU’s Vital Role in the History of Public Enemy

Our friend Jose Fritz at Arcane Radio Trivia shared some fascinating college radio history this week. He delves into the history of college radio at Adelphi University’s student station WBAU in Garden City, New York (which has been off the air since 1995) and also talks about Chuck D and Public Enemy’s connection with the station. Fritz writes,

“In 1976 Chuck joined a group of mobile DJs called Spectrum City; they were rappers and DJs in both senses of the word. He became their emcee in about 1979. Hip-hop fanatic and WBAU Program director Bill Stephney gave them a Saturday night  radio program changing rap history forever…The staff included Flavor Flav, the Boxley brothers and Chuck D. They were connected to record pools focusing on the nascent hip hop genre. They even interviewed Run DMC live on WBAU...There was very little recorded Hip hop to broadcast. So they filled in bits of the program with their own demos including a some called ‘Public Enemy #1.’ In 1985 Spectrum City released a 12-inch single but they had been Public Enemy since 1982.”

Q&A with KSSU Advisor

As part of CMJ’s series of interviews with college radio staffers, it spoke with long-time college radio advisor Susie Kuo from KSSU at Sacramento State University. In her advice for other stations, Kuo suggests, “College radio tends to be staffed by very creative and outgoing personalities. Use your creative problem solving skills to your advantage. Constantly think about ways to make your station more open, more welcoming and more inclusive. And above all else, do what is best for your station.”

CMJ Nominations are Open for Annual College Day Awards

Every year during College Day at the CMJ Music Marathon, there’s a fun awards ceremony in which college radio DJs and folks working in the music industry are honored by their peers. Nominations are now open and anyone who reports to CMJ and has a CMJ industry login is able to submit their suggestions until 3pm Eastern time on September 9. After CMJ selects the finalists, voting will be held during College Day at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York on October 14. Submit your nominees here.

Fire Destroys Campus Radio Station in Nigeria

According to Sahara Reporters, “A midnight fire outbreak has destroyed the campus radio station at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), in Ondo State…A confidential source with knowledge of the fire told our correspondent by phone that the inferno was the result of an electrical power surge from the radio station’s studios.” The FM station, known as FUTA Radio, was a place where students gained on-air experience and it also provided emergency information to the local community.

Radio Station at Penn State Helps Promote Other Campus Organizations at Involvement Fair

I like hearing about ways that college radio stations work with their fellow campus organizations and Onward State shares word about the Penn State station’s (WKPS aka the Lion FM) efforts. According to the article, “The LION will play host to representatives from many of the organizations on campus. While on the air, the groups will have their chance to present themselves, and entice new members.” The station was to broadcast from the school’s Involvement Fair this week and planned to feature 50 different organizations.

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.

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