Monday, December 6, 2010

How the recession is killing radio culture

But as colleges across the country look for ways to tighten budgets amid recession-induced shortfalls, some administrators — most recently in the South — have focused on college radio, leading even well-endowed universities to sell off their FM stations. That trend was felt this summer at Rice and Vanderbilt, among the most prominent of Southern universities, stirring debate about the viability of broadcast radio, the reach of online broadcasting and the value of student broadcast programming.

“We play music that you won’t find on any other Houston radio station” said Joey Yang, a junior at Rice and station manager for KTRU. “KTRU’s mission is to broadcast exactly what you can’t find elsewhere on the dial.”

Lots of places around the country where college radio is the only -- or the best -- music alternative to the heavily formatted playlists of corporate-owned stations. (The exceptions tend to be in really big cities like Seattle or New York. Even in Philadelphia, Drexel's WKDU gives the local stations a run for their money, and we have WXPN here.) In that sense, those stations don't offer great training for the post-college world -- hey DJs, you're never going to have this much freedom again! But the rest of us would be immeasurably poorer without their work.

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