As student radio shows would no longer be broadcasted across the 90.7 FM wavelength, WVKC leadership are concerned that the slots will no longer be taken as seriously by the DJs under the new system. However, they agree that the changes would be positive overall, moving the station into the digital age.
Under the agreement, the broadcast station would operate as a branch of Tri States Public Radio, an NPR affiliate based at Western Illinois University and covering west-central Illinois, southeast Iowa and northeast Missouri. The proposed change is a full-fledged expansion of a 2007 partnership in which TSPR broadcasts NPR’s Morning Edition on 90.7 during the week.
President Teresa Amott said that the general manager of TSPR presented her with the opportunity to host HD public radio on campus. Part of the deal includes installing the necessary technology at no cost to the college, while keeping the studio space and WVKC staff structure the same.
With the new digital radio interface, the 90.7 frequency would be split. TSPR would occupy the first channel, which would transmit to analog radios, while the student-run WVKC stream could only be accessed on a digital radio or on the Internet.
WVKC general managers seniors Hali Engelman and Andrew Stocker noted some disadvantages to the plans, though they supported the shift on the whole. Specifically, they felt like the move to digital streaming would inhibit analog radio users from listening to student programming. Still, Stocker noted that digital radio is becoming the standard.
“There was a little friction over that point, because there are so many exciting opportunities that come with a deal like this for the college,” Stocker said. “That was immediately recognized, and we are also very excited about those opportunities, but I think in that kind of excitement to get the ball rolling on this thing, the prevalence of analog radio was maybe not acknowledged. But again, I think the switch over is pretty unavoidable.”
The splitting of the 90.7 frequency garnered some opposition from the WVKC staff. On a digital radio, listeners will have the choice between two channels while analog listeners will not.
Stocker said that this would influence the Galesburg community and the on campus community in different ways. Whereas students most likely have the resources to access the second channel, either through online streaming or digital radios, the Galesburg community utilizes analog radio devices more prevalently.
The impact would be felt most heavily, he said, on programs run by Galesburg community members, shows like The Archaeology of Radio and the Hora Latina, which maintain wide listenership.
Engelman supports the idea that analog radio may be more widely used than the administration believes.
“[Some] were sort of making assumptions that no one has an analog and no one listens on analog, which I think, as far as I’m concerned, is not true. Most of the people I know listen on their car radio or have an analog radio, and I think that that assumption should change,” Engelman said.
In an interview with The Knox Student, Amott insisted that student opposition would have caused the venture to have been reconsidered.
“We were not going to move forward with the university until the students gave us the go-ahead,” Amott said.
WVKC’s current and incoming general managers were informed of the proposed agreement during a meeting last week with members of the Broadcast, Internet and Publications Board, Chair and Professor of Political Science Andrew Civettini and Dean of Students Debbie Southern, among others.
“If the general managers had significant opposition, we would have engaged in a much lengthier conversation about the idea and its benefits for the college before moving forward,” Civettini said in an interview.
But for Stocker, the opportunities for WVKC in the proposed agreement are worth the change.
“I think if we had come in some sort of organized opposition, or if we had felt more strongly than we did in opposition to the meeting, then they probably would have reconsidered, but I mean, the facts kind of speak for themselves in terms of the opportunities that are going to be provided,” Stocker said.
Engelman said that Civettini played an important role in clarifying the plan, which changed the tone of the meeting.
“I think Andy Civettini really tried to give us all the information before letting us talk; because what it sounds like immediately is that they’re taking it off the air, they’re making it stream and we are, I guess, against that,” she said. “But he gave us a lot of information about what it’s going to provide the school and I think that dramatically changed the tone of the meeting, which I think started out kind of tense because no one knew exactly what they were going to propose.”
Amott said that modernizing the technology in the station was a factor in considering the shift.
“The proposal … was a more technologically advanced option, and I thought it held real promise for our student radio station to vault into new technologies,” Amott said.
Stocker called the change the “end of an era.”
“It saddens me that this is the end of the broadcast of WVKC on air,” Engelman said, though she also expressed her view that an NPR station in Galesburg is overdue.
“I knew that it would be good for Galesburg to have a full-scale public radio station, and I knew that it can be very good for students to have an affiliation with a public radio station,” she said.
Stocker said that while there may be some conflicting feelings surrounding the issue, the move would have multiple positive outcomes. He stressed that the student leadership of the station would have to work with the administration to ensure a successful transition.
“Like any major switch, it was one of the points that we made very clear that we have to present a unified front between the staff of WVKC and the Knox College administration, who are running this change, to present this to the DJs on campus and off campus to get through and rationalize this change,” he said.
As part of the proposed agreement, a full time TSPR reporter would be stationed in Galesburg, and internship opportunities will be made available for Knox students interested in broadcast radio.