Freedom of Radio

Dec 032003
Authors: Elizabeth Kerrigan

In the wonderful world of radio, when the vast majority of radio

stations seem to be jam packed with commercial after commercial and

the same repetitive music, college radio offers the freedom of new

and different music with no advertisements.

Finding a radio station that does not bombard its listeners with

constant commercials or the same mainstream popular music can be a

never-ending challenge. This is why many people say that

noncommercial college radio is a rest to the ears, because unlike

commercial stations, noncommercial college radio stations are

nonprofit organizations with sponsors rather than advertisers.

“Commercial stations, like those owned by Clear Channel, are a

business. Their goal is to make money, and noncommercial stations

goals are completely the opposite,” said Taryn McQueen, public

affairs director for Colorado State University’s radio station,

KCSU 90.5.

Radio stations like KCSU, are noncommercial stations dedicated

to playing something that is different from the mainstream popular

music that you may hear on Clear Channel stations like Fort

Collins’ Kiss 96.1.

“Because we are a noncommercial station, we are self grounded

and we can play whatever we want. We don’t have to answer to record

companies or corporate authorities,” said Braden Dick, program

director for KCSU.

Dick claims that because KCSU is a noncommercial station, they

have the freedom to play new music that isn’t aired on commercial

stations until four to six months after a CD is released.

“We used to play bands like Maroon 5, Avril Lavigne and John

Mayer, long before they became popular on the mainstream radio

stations,” Dick said. “Now that’s all you hear on typical

commercial stations.”

At noncommercial college radio stations the student managers and

DJs decide what music is best fit to serve the community, where at

a commercial station the play lists and commentary has gone through

a long line of corporate management.

“Commercial stations don’t have the freedom to be spontaneous,

unfortunately, their DJs realize that they are just helping to run

a computer,” said Mario Valdez, station manager of KRCC 91.5 of

Colorado College in Colorado Springs. “Even the things that they

say on the air are written down for them.”

Valdez also claims that it is a much more exciting and

fulfilling experience for disc jockeys to work for a noncommercial


“Many times a DJ will take a second job at a noncommercial

station under a different DJ name so they can have more

spontaneity. It’s the only way they can have some fun at their

job,” Valdez said.

This is due to a system that was originally established in the

1950s called format radio, which is the basis for almost all

commercial radio stations. Using this, the management, rather than

the DJs, organize the daily programs, according to the book, “Media

and Culture” by Richard Campbell.

“In format radio, management carefully coordinates, or programs,

each hour, dictating what the deejay will do at various intervals

throughout each hour of the day,” Campbell wrote.

John Quigley, general manager of KVCU 1190 of the University of

Colorado Boulder, claims that noncommercial radio was created in

order to get away from the commercialism of profit radio and will

continue to use its freedom to air new and unique music genres.

“Commercial radio stations are unwilling to take risks and have

become over- commercialized,” Quigley said. “Noncommercial stations

are much better quality because they have the freedom to play what

they want and not what they are told to play.”

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