Colleges That Give-up Their FCC License

fcc-logoI recently wrote an article for Radio World about the impact of colleges that sold their student radio station’s FCC license had on the pedagogical program at those institutions. You can read that article in Radio World here.



Today, I’d like to share with you something else I learned in talking with educators from around the country while researching this article. The FM license in every case connected the student station to the community. It was the heart and soul of the operation. When the license was sold and the station would become an online Internet only radio station it lost that connection.


Now the irony is that all of these student radio stations didn’t stop broadcasting over the FM band and then become Internet radio stations. No, they already had been streaming on the Internet and had listeners from all over the world in many cases. So why didn’t that continue to sustain these radio stations?


Let me make a comparison to help you understand this a little better. When you buy a magazine, do you read only one article and then toss it away or do you turn all the pages and look at other things in addition to that cover story that first attracted your attention and caused you to purchase the magazine? You read, if only skimming, the entire magazine. You spent time with that publication and became a little more invested in it. If you subscribe to the magazine this would be akin to being a P1 listener to a radio station.


When you see an article from a magazine online do you read the whole magazine or just the article that captured your attention and then leave? You do what we all do. It’s one and done. No investment in the magazine, just the article.


Well, what I learned is that it apparently isn’t all that much different when it comes to student streaming radio stations. It’s more of a hit and run.


There’s also a problem with student online radio stations in that they have limited connection capacity in most cases. That means only a limited number of people can listen to the stream, unless the college makes a big investment in expanding the capacity in the number of listeners can be connected at the same time. This is somewhat solved if a student station goes with a large online aggregator like TuneIn or Live365.


But let’s be real, when you enter a store and everything in the place is priced the same – FREE – which would you chose? The best you could find. Good Luck student stations.


Contrast that with student radio stations that broadcast over FM radio. What you find is that they are now only competing within the local community of service and in that playing field, have a chance to break through and be heard.


Over 92% of Americans 12-years of age and older still have the radio habit and listen every week. When it comes to listening to streaming stations on the Internet the percentage of penetration doesn’t come close. And those that do listen to streaming Internet music are very likely tuned to Pandora, if the current data available about such things is to be believed.


Another thing I heard was how more and more of these student radio stations were working to get a LPFM license so they could return to the air on the FM radios in their community.


When Zane Lowe was getting ready to launch Apple’s Beats1, he told the trades that a big part of the three months leading up to the launch was spent trying to come up with a better name for the new service than radio. They couldn’t do it.


Radio is the brand, because it works.


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Uncategorized

10 responses to “Colleges That Give-up Their FCC License

  1. Paul Sakrison

    Radio is only radio if it is transmitted wirelessly on a broadcast band.


    • Chuck W.

      No one argues that wired delivery of television signals—whether broadcast or closed-circuit-only cable channels—is “TV”. Why do so many of you in radio refuse to accept that wired delivery of audio that duplicates or copies what radio station formats have done for decades is radio?


      • I don’t argue your point. I’ve made a similar point many times. What my research has shown with respect to college radio stations is that NOT having the FM signal impacts the station’s connection to the community at this point-in-time.

        If you receive an audio signal into your smartphone, it’s delivered just like any other radio wave be it AM, FM, Satellite or digital signal via a cell tower.

        But I think you’re missing the point. FM radio is still the way that 92% of Americans get what they call “radio.”

        My students call everything that comes into their device as audio, radio.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. james heckel

    Shame on schools that sell out their students’ opportunity to be on air, just like the big boys and girls in commercial radio. WSOU, Seton Hall Pirate Radio 89.5, changed many lives, including mine. It also continues to launch many careers in broadcasting. I hope SHU doesn’t succumb.


  3. Pingback: Dolly Dimples |

    • Doug Limerick is an icon at ABC News Radio. I listen to him every morning. He’s earned his retirement, but he will be missed.

      (I also listen to Cheri Preston every afternoon.)

      And Lowell Thomas’ “Dolly Dimples” broadcast is a classic that never ceases to get me laughing hysterically.


  4. Curt Krafft

    Students are being cheated when their college gets rid of their broadcast license. There is no substitute for being “on the air.” I have nothing against internet radio but since it doesn’t have to follow the rules of regular radio what are you going to learn from it? Answer: Not much.


  5. The unfortunate reality is that in the days of lower college enrollments and escalating costs, a college radio station is viewed merely as an asset…a possible quick infusion of cash, if sold. You’ll be seeing the same thing with college/university Public Television stations in the coming days, as the current spectrum auction takes off. As someone who learned at a college radio station, went on to a moderately successful career, built and launched college radio stations, I know the educational and social values that a college radio station brings to a campus. I now teach Mass Communications and I view the radio station as living lab. People not only learn the business, but those so-called soft skills (clear speaking, writing, THINKING, work as part of a team) Given our location and the cost to build an FM station, we must settle for an streaming station. I don’t think less of it and believe it’s better than no radio station at all.

    Liked by 1 person

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