In a collaboration with local public radio station WXXI 1370 AM, UR’s student-run radio station WRUR 88.5 FM will receive equipment support, technical training and programming to fill dead air space in the continuation of a pilot program that began this summer.

“We’re making the station better, working with the station to make it more useful at times when students are listening,” Executive Vice President of WXXI Susan Rogers said.

WXXI approached the on-campus station about exchanging services for open spots. “WXXI had programming and wanted to be put in an FM outlet and we had the time,” Director of Wilson Commons and Student Activities Anne-Marie Algier said.

WRUR also ran the risk of losing their Federal Communications Commission license due to unused airtime. According to Rogers, the FCC stipulates that noncommercial, educational FM broadcasters must have programs 12 hours a day, 12 months a year, and if this is not filled, ‘time-share applications’ are legally allowed to take airtime space. “Someone could just come in and say, we can use it,” Rogers said. “It was very possible they were in danger of losing their license. Under the new rules by the FCC, you’re supposed to be on the air all the time.”

The main problem with students being unable to fill airspace was the semester schedule. Most students leave for the summer months, and, as a result, the radio station is virtually unmanned.

“I was the only management here this summer, along with a couple other students,” junior and General Manager of WRUR Jared Lapin said.

Algier agreed the lack of available staff posed a problem. “The summer is an especially difficult time for WRUR. Students are gone for the summer, and it’s difficult to fill the time,” Algier said.

The dead air was also increased by the limited capabilities of the station at UR, who are unable to pre-record and keep things running if no one is there.

“It takes someone here to run the station,” Algier said. “There’s no way to tape shows, and we don’t have the technology so it’s not totally computerized like other big stations.”

WXXI has given UR engineering support and provided the necessary technology to keep the transitions smooth. “They’ve contributed engineering support, which has allowed us to advance as a radio station technically and advance from a marketing standpoint,” Lapin said.

WXXI also bought some necessary equipment for UR. “They bought a couple of pieces of equipment that were necessary for this collaboration,” he said. “They haven’t paid us anything. It’s been an exchange of services. They’ve helped us figure out where we’re deficient and they’ve helped us improve it.”

In return, WRUR offers a 3,000-watt signal and wider coverage for WXXI at night, which loses much of its broadcasting ability after sunset and before sun-up, due to an FCC policy regarding changing the direction of the radio signal after dark.

“We have a problem,” Rogers said. “Early in the morning and late at night we lose our signal.” “Our signal is broadcast from the top of the Hyatt downtown,” Lapin said. “It’s a different signal, so the FM station is stronger and has a larger coverage area at night.”

With the new partnership, WXXI will broadcast on UR’s FM station signal in the morning, airing National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” and simulcasting with their AM station.

WXXI also hopes to provide support for students in learning new methods, keeping up to date with guidelines and help students run the station better technologically.

Rogers believes the students so far have been pleased with their input. “I think they’re happy with the engineering support. We rewired some things, provided equipment. I hope they’re happy. We gave them some advice on staying legal also so they don’t lose their license,” she said.

Lapin agreed that the changes have been for the better. “For the most part [the feedback] has been very positive. A couple of people were concerned it was a takeover, but since it’s absolutely not there’s been no concern beyond that,” Lapin said. “WRUR has a large community member involvement and we like it to be more student-involved and WXXI lets us do that.”

Students at WRUR were also unhappy with the news service they had, and WXXI, being associated with NPR, gave WRUR a new route for providing news information.

“I know the students haven’t been happy with the news service they had from the Associated Press,” Rogers said. “Now they can use our news, so I think it works out well.”

The station understands though, that students retain full autonomy of the station, and WXXI will intercede in a minimal manner.

“We do have our own stations to worry about,” Rogers said. “There’s no question it’s been well understood that it’s totally controlled by and all the responsibility is with the students.”

Lapin also made clear it was not to be seen as a buyout. “I can assure you that it is not a takeover and it does not dilute control of WRUR in any way.”

The timing of WXXI’s programming also will have a low impact on the schedule, with prime time airspace still used by student programs.

“We have programming on from 5 to 9 a.m,” Rogers said. “We’re doing early mornings so most students, I would think, aren’t listening then. For most it’s not a big listening time. It’s not taking away from the experience at the station.”

Rogers expressed WXXI’s wish of simply providing support for the already existing system at WRUR. “The most serious issue is it’s difficult to run a transmitter and the equipment without support. UR doesn’t run their Web site just on volunteer students. It’s a lot to expect,” Rogers said. “There are different ways to provide support, and that’s just what we are trying to do.”

As for future projects and continuing simulcasting, WXXI feels it is a wait-and-see situation, but sees opportunities for more exposure.

“We’re trying to work on new things, possibly having streamed radio for alumni, for instance, who don’t have any access to the station. We want to strengthen the station within the limits of what we can do,” Rogers said. “[The station] is not just a little thing. It is a visible part of the university. I think they need support, and I hope they see us as a partner.”

Linden can be reached at klinden@campustimes.org.



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