Budget cuts could silence college radio stations
America’s college radio stations, long credited with giving that first break to little-known musicians and offering a voice for idiosyncratic viewpoints, are at risk of losing their identity to budget-cutters, a grass-roots campaign warns.
More than 350 college radio stations are going to the airwaves today to fight against a steady stream of universities nationwide who have been selling or transferring their FM licenses to non-student operations, typically in response to tighter budgets and a rapidly changing media industry.
In May, Rice University in Houston completed the sale of its KTRU-FM tower, license and bandwidth for $9.5 million. Sales are pending at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University for $3.35 million and at the University of San Francisco for $3.75 million. They echo similar transactions in the last few years involving about a dozen student-run stations, including those at Texas Tech University, Augustana College in South Dakota, and Chattanooga State Technical Community College in Tennessee.
In most cases, the stations are being bought up by either a local National Public Radio affiliate or religious broadcasters, says Mark Maben, general manager of Seton Hall University’s student-run station and a board member for College Broadcasters Inc., which represents close to 200 stations.
Student programming has been moving to online or HD channels. But that’s not the same, says communications professor Rob Quicke, general manager of the student-run station at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. “When you’ve got an FM license, it’s a huge blow to have it taken away from you,” he says. “They are silencing their students’ voices forever…”