College Radio Stations Becoming Local Alternative
July 13, 2010
By Robert Calobrisi
special to The Enterprise
As she listens to 92.3 Pro-FM on the radio, Ellen Rathburn often hears a familiar "new" song.
That's because Rathburn, general manager at the Bridgewater State College radio station, 91.5 WBIM-FM, has played it on her station months - if not years - earlier.
"We definitely are finding a lot of hits before they make it onto the charts," Rathburn, a senior, said.
"But we are trying to expose Bridgewater State and surrounding communities to music that they wouldn't hear on other radio stations; stuff that people at our station are passionate about and want to share with the community."
In an era of commercial broadcast stations that play predominately mainstream music nationwide, the more than 1,400 college radio stations nationwide are becoming the local alternative for many listeners.
"It's really nice to know that we do have somewhat of an influence," Rathburn said.
Jeremiah McCarthy, the general manager at Stonehill College's 91.3 WSHL-FM, said college radio is known for featuring up-and-coming artists.
"It's a place for us to get undiscovered and budding artists before they catch on to the greater public," McCarthy said.
Peter Q. George, general manager of 95.1 WXRB-FM in Dudley, Mass., who also serves as the chief engineer for both Stonehill College and Bridgewater State College radio stations, said college radio stations have a unique advantage.
"College radio has the flexibility to play up-and-coming music (without) having to worry about ratings," he said.
Geoffrey Lantos of Easton, a professor at Stonehill and adviser for WSHL, said listening off campus also provides insight into Stonehill's campus life.
"It's not tightly scripted like a professional station. It's more conversational, more laid back, easy-going (with) no strict time limits," he said.
Chris McCormick, the information technology representative at the Stonehill college station, said the alternative programming is a plus for a college station.
"It's not like, ‘You have to play this or you're fired,'" said the Stonehill senior. "We wouldn't have any DJs if it was like that."
Both WBIM and WSHL programming includes hip-hop, alternative rock, indie rock, rpm (a mix of techno and dance), metal, as well as talk radio.
George said each station's signal covers seven to eight towns: WBIM's signal covers the southeast direction toward Middleboro while WSHL's signal goes northwest toward Brockton - both with a potential FM listenership of 175,000 people.
Most e-mails to the Bridgewater station are from bands, asking how to get on the air, Rathburn said.
"A lot of bands send us stuff to play demos," she said. "We never turn anything away. We try to give everyone a shot."
The staff also goes into Boston and Providence to listen to new artists, she said.
Long after he graduates, Stonehill's radio station general manager McCarthy just wants students involved with the radio station to stay committed to it.
"Some students don't know how lucky they have it to have a radio show," he said.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.