College radio stations have been mainstays on many college campuses.
College radio stations have become one of the standing traditions at universities across the nation. They’re just one of the many platforms from where students get information, listen to music and hear about the football team’s away game.
But when did they come about?
College radio became commonplace at universities in the 1960s, but the first station was established in 1920. The Wireless Radio of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. was the first college radio station to broadcast any form of audio over the airwaves. They played 30 minutes of music with only three minutes of disruption — and so began college radio.
Originally college radio stations broadcasted the day’s news, college sports updates and music, with little to no specialty shows. Near the end of the 20th century, the programming at many stations began to shift into something different. The stations began to play new types of music such as alternative rock and rap, as well as college bands that were not played on major radio stations. These genres are what college radio stations are known for playing.
Stations have evolved even more in the past few years. Some have a tough time surviving, struggling to secure funding through university grants and donations. But College Radio Day, celebrated each year, has plans to help ensure the survival of college radio.
Founder and President of College Radio Day Rob Quicke says that they plan to start a College Radio Day Fund, which will be used to assist stations with replacing outdated equipment and other needs.
“It will be a full non-profit organization, bi-partisian and non-political fund,” he says.
Since its inception in 2010, Quicke’s College Radio Day has been catching on. Quicke says in the event’s first year drew interest from 50 college radio stations and now has over 700 stations participating worldwide.
Many college radio stations stick to their roots by playing the best and greatest underground and indie music that the scene has to offer.
“It was never meant to be something that is mainstream,” Quicke says, adding that “students care passionately about the music stations play.”
MtvU is doing its part to help promote the world of college radio, including its College Radio Countdown. The Countdown’s purpose is to give “college radio stations across the country the opportunity to call out their favorite videos on mtvU,” according to mtvU’s website.
The Woodie Awards, mtvU’s annual music awards show voted on by college students, has a category for, “Best College Radio.” This year’s nominees featured stations from Alaska, California, Michigan and New Jersey; KSUA 91.5 FM of University of Alaska – Fairbanks took home the title.
The University of Alaska – Fairbanks is not particularly known for its communications programs, but is often more recognized as a “science-oriented place,” says Brady Gross, KSUA 91.5 FM’s general manager. “(The radio station) gives confidence to students in media majors and shows that there is more to the University of Alaska.”
Winning this award can mean a lot for a station. Gross says the achievement “confirmed the community response and support we have here in Alaska.
“Universities and colleges tell students that they will be a place for students to help find their voices,” Quicke says. “Well, college radio literally does that for students.”
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