College radio seeks to stop station losses


The loss of college radio stations in Houston, San Francisco and Nashville has gotten the attention of the trade group College Broadcasters Inc. It’s getting member stations to observe a “Minute of Silence” to underscore what the loss of college radio would mean to local listeners.

“The recent sale of stations like KUSF at the University of San Francisco, KTRU at Rice University and WNAZ at Trevecca Nazarene University indicates that college broadcasters need to do a better job of explaining their value and purpose to the schools and communities they serve,” said Candace Walton, President of CBI. “This minute of silence is just the first step in a broader effort to make the nation aware of how critical student stations are to localism in broadcasting.”

A number of factors have been feeding into the sale of stations – schools looking for funding; the perception that students no longer use old media like radio in large numbers; and the desire for other strong public broadcasters to be able to format at least one full time news/talk station while also providing arts programming, often including a heavy emphasis on classical music.

This isn’t the only motivator, of course – the Nashville sale involves a religious college and a noncommercial religious buyer.

But CBI, which represents about 200 student media outlets, doesn’t want to lose any more stations.

“Many Americans, including members of Congress, have complained that consolidation, voice tracking, syndication and automation have left communities without a true local radio station. Student stations are often the last locally-focused radio outlet in their community,” Mark Maben, Development Director of College Broadcasters, Inc pointed out. “At a time of expressed alarm about the demise of localism in broadcasting, noncommercial stations with a high percentage of locally produced programming need to be considered open green spaces of the air that should be preserved, not bulldozed over in favor of programming from faraway sources.”

“Those who have benefited from college radio, including alumni, commercial broadcasters, and the music industry must step up and call on the Federal Communications Commission to reassess what it means by localism in content. These stations are invaluable and when the frequency is gone, it will not be returned,” added Walton.

RBR-TVBR observation: We believe both commercial broadcasters and the music industry should be supporting college radio. For broadcasters, it’s a training ground for tomorrow’s talent pool. For many musicians, these stations represent the best chance to get air time. We hope the recent spate of sales does not represent the beginning of the end for student run broadcast radio.