The author assistant director of Student Media at Savannah College of Art and Design and IT Content director of College Broadcasters Inc. Campus View appears regularly at radioworld.com
When the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Savannah, Ga., started investigating options for a college radio station in 1995, the outlook was bleak. Frequencies in the area were hard to come by, and both full-power and low-power FM applications by the college had been rejected. Luckily, Internet radio was just beginning, and the college decided to be a front-runner instead of waiting around. By January, 2002, the first broadcast of SCADRadio.org was streaming live around the world. The sister station at the Atlanta location, SCADAtlantaRadio.org, began streaming in 2007.
A lot of people still have the same response, though. “So, it’s not real radio,” they say. Usually, I answer, “Well, I’m certainly not imagining it.”
There’s only ever going to be so many frequencies on the dial, and so much money a college is willing to pay for a terrestrial license. Internet stations are a viable option for colleges, and have been growing steadily in recent years. Among CBI members, about 20–30% are online-only media (radio and/or video).
Instead of viewing “Internet-only” as a second-class ticket, we’ve chosen to dwell on the unique advantages, and instill the same professional values and practices students would learn at terrestrial college stations.
● We still have shows and shifts, regular rotation and charts for CMJ, DJ training, a real studio booth and offices. We follow a regular program clock. We have touring bands in for interviews and live performances. We air PSAs, produce our own liners and do events on campus and around the city.
● We voluntarily follow FCC regulations, as well as DMCA regulations. Our mission, as well as the college’s mission entirely, is to prepare students for the professional world. We’d be denying them the real-world experience if we didn’t hold them to industry standards. The students buy in from day one. We emphasize in training that none of our rules are special, and none of them were arbitrarily made up just to annoy them. They’re the real deal. And, we have no problem when students decide that it isn’t what they imagined it would be. If you want to play unedited 2 Live Crew, DJing on our stream probably isn’t for you.
● If our students are learning state-of-the-art technology and industry-standard practices in the classroom, there’s no reason to give them less here. Plus, if our students intern at a pro station or transfer to another college, there won’t be too much else they’ll need to learn.
We also take advantage of the opportunities unique to online broadcasting. SCAD has a huge international population. Students come from all 50 states and around the world, a lot of times without knowing anyone here. Parents back home, friends at other colleges, and music fans all over can tune in from anywhere and hear our DJs.
We can also give our audience more through other features on our website, along with social media, blogs, podcasts, giveaways and interviews. Our listeners are already on our website, so we don’t have to plead for their visits. We also recognize that a lot of our students spend much more time in front of their computers than in their cars (if they even have cars). Our DJs commit to their web presences with specialized social media, blogs and other features to build and retain their audience.
Of course, this is all because of our attitude, and our wholehearted commitment to run the station just like any other college radio station. Our students get the benefit of the “college radio experience” (free CDs, late-night pizza deliveries, teamwork and management experience) plus an experience with leading-edge technology. As colleges trim budgets and shift priorities, Internet-only stations can still give the next generation of radio talent the practice and skills they’d get on a college terrestrial station. If you set a serious tone from the start, Internet college radio is real radio; no imagination required.