College radio

From Academic Kids

College radio (also known as university radio or campus radio) is a type of radio station that is run by the students of a college or university. Such broadcasters are typically considered to be public radio stations.



United States

College radio as it is generally known began in the United States in the 1960s when the FCC began issuing class D licenses for ten-watt stations to further the development of the then-new FM band. Some colleges had already been broadcasting for decades on the AM band, often originating in physics experiments in the early 20th century. Most of the FM stations went on to get higher-class licenses, typically a few hundred watts. A few got several kilowatts, and a small handful got licenses in the range of tens of thousands sometimes reaching up to full-power 100 kilowatt outlets.

By the late 1970s, FM had taken off, and competition for channels for new stations was intensifying. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the newly-founded National Public Radio (NPR) convinced the FCC that the low-power stations were somehow a "detriment" to broadcasting, and class D licenses were no longer issued for applications made after 1979. Making matters worse, the stations were demoted to a second-class status, meaning that they would be forced off the air if any full-power station wanted their space.

Many stations were forced to upgrade their facilities at considerable expense to the students. Many other stations were eventually (and still continue to be) forced off the air, because they could not afford the upgrades at all, or not in time to avoid being locked-in by other expanding stations.

A very few stations have been added to the airwaves in very isolated cities with the return of the LPFM license to the U.S. The restrictions that U.S. Congress placed on LPFM stations as a result of the NAB's lobbying have seriously limited the effectiveness of this however.


The college radio concept first spread to Canada, which has the most similar broadcasting structure to the U.S., with the launch of Carleton University's CKCU in 1975. Unlike the U.S., Canada distributes the non-commercially-reserved channels throughout the FM band, instead of all channels 88 to 92MHz. In Canada, the distinction between a university and a college is different from that in the United States, although both types of schools can and do have radio operations—accordingly, the format is more commonly known in Canada as campus radio. In early 2005, Humber College's radio station became the first broadcast station to air 100 per cent Canadian content. In terms of strength of signal, the biggest college radio station in the world is WRAS-Atlanta, 88.5 FM.

The concept has also spread to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere, where it is more often called university radio. Frequently, a university radio station is the community radio station, and is open for everyone (not just students) to join the staff.

College radio also exists in Israel, where several colleges, universities and high schools have successful programs. One of the most famous is Kol HaCampus (Voice of the Campus/Campus Voice), broadcast out of Tel Aviv on 106 on the FM frequency. More information can be found with the Israel Broadcast Authority.


The earliest college radio stations carried a variety of programming, including news, sports, and music. It was common for stations to include educational shows, both as a public service and as part of distance learning courses. In the latter portion of the 20th century, many U.S. stations played what came to be known as "college rock", a type of rock music that had not yet hit the mainstream. Most stations have now diversified, with many following a very commercial-like music rotation during the weekdays, and having specialty shows on evenings and weekends. A few stations really go out on a limb, occasionally being described as a cacophony of randomness.

Many college stations in the U.S. have been folded into National Public Radio and affiliated regional networks. Such stations tend to carry news/talk programming and/or classical music. However, college and university stations tend to play mostly non-mainstream music, can often be described as freeform, and also tend to express a lot of creativity and individualism among the disc jockeys. A number of these stations have gained critical acclaim for their musical diversity.


Broadcasts are distributed in several ways:

See also


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