Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Death of College Radio

Sure, there are some exceptions - but while updating the streaming radio directory, it is obvious that most high schools, colleges and universities that hold low power educational FM licenses are letting them go dark - at least the schools are removing any reference to them from their official web sites. Some others are being handed over to their local public radio network to run with syndicated NPR programming.

Some of this may be the result of pressure from other interests (mostly religious broadcasters) who want frequencies to build out their networks. Congress changed the law in the 1990s (Section 73.561) to require an educational station to broadcast 5 hours a day, 6 days a week and at least 36 hours a week in order to retain their license, if challenged. A station that broadcasts less than 12 hours a day may be compelled to "time share" the frequency with another station when not on the air.

Is this change what is pushing colleges out of the radio marketplace? Or is it a general lack of interest and or the lack of future employment prospects in radio?

If Jack FM's (tm) computer plays what it wants 24 hours a day, why would any human want to learn how to operate a radio station? Why work for the college station when you can run your own Shoutcast station with no rules?

Or is there something else going on here?


At 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its because formats like shoutcast are the new radio, mp3 players that let you load gigabytes of your own playlists, shoutcast streaming (and illegal ripping for later iPod use) in the end Radio as we know it, is dieing, but Radio is not dead, its just changing form. I'm sure as A.M. was abandoned for F.M. similar conversations were happening, were just trading in FM for WebCasting(W.C.?)
Anyway theres my 2bits on it, check out shoutcast, you'll hear the college kids, and highschool kids, indeed many more of them with a wider audience, then you'd have ever heard on a low power AM/FM station.

At 3:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

college students do not use over-the-air radio anymore. well, okay, let me adjust that to say very few do. the vast majority listen to webcasts via their computers. many do not even own a radio receiver, unless it is part of their cellphone or mp3 player. it is sad to see these stations go dark, but how many? do we have numbers?

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Art Stone said...

It's been a while since I wrote the original post, but the trend is pretty clear as I've been revisiting each station web site this fall.

The CRB ruling in July has accellerated the process - schools are now going to have to pay something for broadcast rights, and that may be the final nail. In general, what I've found is the stations are being transferred over to statewide NPR networks to become repeaters, losing their licenses due to challenges from other non-profits (mostly religious networks) or streaming automation merely to keep from losing their license for inactivity. Even where the station has not "gone dark", in many cases the web sites have vanished, including most references on the school's main web site.

My guestimate is that perhaps 10% of the stations are still active and vibrant, but teaching the misleading concept that you can get a job after school where you "play what you want" regardless of the economics... but at least you learn how to operate "the board" using 30 year old analog equipment (which no longer exists as stations move to all digital computer-based systems)

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked at a small local in the end of the era of real, fully staffed local stations. This was in the late 80s, early 90s prior to non-staffed automation. While it's sad to see radio, especially local non-homogonized radio, is done. From a teaching tool standpoint, there is no reason at all for a HS or college to have a radio station. The only "real" jobs offered by radio are in sales and possibly some programming. It's a disservice and outright lie to claim that a college level education is required to get a radio job now...more often than not, it's just skill and luck.


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