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Re: An argument for Class D

On Sat, 19 Jul 1997, Sean P. Smyth wrote:

> While reading the posts I have been getting the past few weeks, I am
> starting to believe maybe the Class D license could be reinstated.

Yes, it should, and for exactly the reasons you enumerate.

>  I personally see no purpose in all of these "non-commercial" FM stations
> in Boston all running "All Things Considered" at the same time.

I (remember, I don't speak for WCRB here, just for myself) have long been
critical of WGBH's management for running ATC in competition with WBUR,
and I don't understand why CPB allows it. 

I suspect the answer is that WGBH is first and foremost a television
organization run by people who don't really understand radio.  The fact is
that WGBH-FM is programmed like a college radio station: an hour of X, two
hours of Y, and on Sunday afternoons a special program devoted to Z.  When
I was in college there was a rumor that WGBH-FM originally modelled its
programming on that of WHRB.

Does anyone know what the strategic objective of WGBH Radio is?  How do
its various programs further that objective?  What is the station's target
audience?  On what basis does WGBH conclude that its peculiar mix of
long-form news and various musical genres best meets the needs of its
listeners?  Shouldn't WGBH Radio, which is a qualitatively different type
of business than WGBH Television, operate independently?  Shouldn't it at
least have a separate general manager? 

> Why some of these college stations need to be running nearly 1000 watts
> of power and higher, one only knows. (I didn't know college campuses
> were *that* big.) If the college stations were cut back on power and
> there were more "community"  Class D outlets out there, I think we would
> be seeing some eclectic, yet interesting, radio. Response? 

Well, I've been serving on WHRB's board of trustees for the past ten
years, and have watched, listened to, and participated in, a lot of
college radio.

Many college stations do serve as "community" stations, if by that you
mean producing programs of relevance to their communities of license or
allowing members of those communities to produce programs.  The reason so
many stations ended up in the hands of colleges is that colleges can
afford to keep them operating. Even a Class D station operating with an
all-volunteer staff will need at least $50,000/year to stay on the air,
and a 1,000-watt station actually doesn't cost much more than that.

If eclecticism is in such great demand, why isn't there more on commercial
radio?  After all, there are stations like WUNR and WNTN which will sell
you a block of air time in which you can program anything you like -- as
long as you can pay for it.  If what you want to program is an hour a week
of radio drama or poetry reading, surely it's going to be cheaper to buy
the time on WNTN than to set up and operate a new station?

It has long been my belief that college radio should be a place to learn
the art of radio in all its aspects: attracting listeners and serving
their needs, operating and maintaining studios and transmitting
facilities, building good relations with community and business leaders,
finding the money to stay in business, and working as a team towards a
shared strategic objective.  Not only will such a station be more
beneficial to the community of which it is part, but it will also produce
graduates who are better prepared to succeed as radio professionals or in
business in general.  

Most college stations I've heard, however, are free-for-alls where
participants get to do anything they like, whether anyone listens or not,
and the university pays the bills.  No one learns, and no one listens. The
best thing that could happen to these stations would be for the
universities to cut off their funding; some stations would disappear (and
make their channels available to community broadcasters), but others would
bite the bullet, impose some order on themselves, and remake themselves
into real radio stations. Either way, the universities, the listening
public, and the radio industry would all benefit immensely. 

Rob Landry