Monday, March 14, 2005

Students tell NPR to jump in Lake Wobegon

This may be a little past its freshness date, so to speak, but for those who love community radio, it's always relevant.

Mark Oppenheimer related how a bunch of students organized and convinced the University of New Haven President to reject a plan to turn their music-format college radio station into another NPR affiliate.

Here, excerpted, is his case for independent radio.

These are guys, and some girls, who spend 30 hours a week...for no money, superintending the best college radio station in the state.

"The point of college radio has never been about ratings or mass appeal," said the student station manager. "It's to provide something other stations don't provide."

It was extraordinary to hear the passion of these students. They didn't seem like born activists; rather, they were music fiends, and that's why the station meant everything to them. In this age of fractured media, with the internet and radio and satellite radio and newspapers and TV and movies and books all competing for our attention, these DJs were focused on one thing: music, played on the radio.

The community needs this truly independent radio station as much as the college kids do.

The point, I realized, is that we ought to have a station that takes a stand--a stand on principle--that says: We will play certain music just because it's cool and our enthusiastic, sometimes inexperienced DJs think it's worth playing....And, once in a while, someone will...hear a song that, lo and behold, she thinks is just terrific. And that's reason enough for our station to play this stuff.

I think NPR is a terrific news-gathering operation, but there is a dark side. Much as Fox News does the thinking for a huge chunk of America, NPR spoon-feeds certain tastes to another segment of the country, and that can be just as harmful to diversity of thought. Harmful, too, are the reactionary stances some NPR affiliates take in opposition to the licensing of low-wattage radio signals; NPR, too often, wants to be the only public radio show in town. College radio is one antidote, and those of us who oppose corporate consolidation and monopolies should celebrate it.

Mark Oppenheimer, "Schoolhouse Rock: The students of UNH tell National Public Radio to go jump in Lake Wobegon," New Haven Advocate, 10 February 2005.

P.S. to you New Orleanians and anyone else who listens to its webcast, another great college/community radio station, WTUL, is in the middle of its yearly Marathon fundraiser, and it needs your help.


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