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The NYC Area Preps for Debut of the Big88

Eight college and high school radio stations will become the area’s biggest FM station for one day

A unique broadcast designed to highlight the importance of noncommercial educational stations run by college and high school students will hit the airwaves Nov. 8.

To build awareness of the benefits and value of educational radio, eight college and high school FM stations in the New York City area will band together for a one-day simulcast. Organized by Andy Gladding, chief engineer of WRHU(FM), the college radio station of Hofstra University, the simulcast is set to include WRSU(FM) Rutgers Radio, WCWP(FM) Long Island University, WPSC(FM) William Patterson University, WPOB(FM) Plainview Old Bethpage JFK High School, WKWZ(FM) Syosset High School, WFNP(FM) SUNY New Paltz and WARY(FM) Westchester Community College.

In addition to their status as educational radio stations, each station broadcasts between 88.1-88.9 FM, thus creating what Gladding is calling “the Big88” — in effect, New York’s biggest FM station for one day. 

The fact that so many NCE stations were interested in participating illustrates “the enthusiasm and excitement of those working in radio,” Gladding said. 

“I’ve always wanted to put something like this together, and I was really amazed by the positive feedback I received from the partner stations during the initial pitch. There’s a certain energy that surrounds any ‘large scale’ broadcast event, whether it’s a big news production, live concert, athletics program or any other technical execution that attracts a large number of ears/eyes for a specified amount of time,” he said. 

“Once the [student participants] have a chance to have this experience, I’m certain it will only empower them to think of bigger and more creative ideas they can integrate into their own studies and pre-professional development,” Gladding said.

Schools participating in the one-day broadcast will have the opportunity to showcase their own programming on a rotating basis throughout the day, with student DJs talking about how they serve their campus and their community through radio. 

WRHU Hofstra has a committed student population with more than 300 student volunteers who work to produce audio/radio play-by-play for university games — creating live mobile, web and broadcast content for Hofstra D1 teams as well as Long Island Nets basketball and the New York Islanders hockey coverage. The college radio station is one of the largest student organizations on campus.

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[Related: “WRHU College Radio Brings Local Programming Worldwide“]

This Big88 event is designed to help demonstrate the value of retaining FM NCE stations in the community.

“We cover lots of stuff, tough stuff like a recent faculty strike, [which] we covered wall-to-wall, and we sent out people to do hard news stories,” said Mike Pavlichko, broadcast administrator for WRSU(FM). An FM NCE since 1974, the station has editorial freedom; the university does not get involved in mandating content, he said. 

During the Big88 broadcast itself, several stations — including WPSC, WRSU and the two high school stations — will connect to the Hofstra station via Comrex IP codecs. WFNP will connect by web stream. The remainder of the stations will send its radio staff to the Hofstra studios to go on air.

“This is our first time doing a live connection to a university,” said Mark Sacharoff, chief engineer at WPSC(FM) 88.7. The station will be on from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Big88 day. “We ran a test with Hofstra and were on the air for 45 minutes straight with no problems,” he said.

“We’re excited to collaborate with them — and all of the other partners on the broadcast — as we see this being the start of a working relationship between some amazing radio programs where we can share content, ideas and initiatives,” Gladding said. “The way I see it, even though we all represent different educational institutions and programs, we are all excited for the opportunity to create a large ‘network’ of passionate, young broadcasters. Someday soon, they will all hopefully find themselves working together in the commercial sector.” 

In addition to introducing students from one station to another, the broadcast is designed to illustrate to the community that there is a diverse mix of stations out on the air.

“For me, the benefit is giving listeners in our broadcast area a different perspective of music,” Sacharoff said.

It’s also important to remember the value that NCE stations have in the community, he said. “We are here and we have a voice.” Sacharoff said he is constantly asked how big DJs in New York City or Philadelphia get their training. The answer: places like these. “It starts with a small little college radio station that is broadcast to millions,” he said.

What is impressive, Sacharoff added, is that you have a whole new generation of kids still excited and interested in radio. “There is something different about being live over the air.”

A collaboration like this speaks volumes to the community building done by NCE broadcasters. “Beginning that team-building now by working together just makes us all stronger and gives us tremendous reach, while also increasing the value of our individual programs in the public sphere,” Gladding said.

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