College radio advocates are protesting the loss of student-run FM stations. On campuses nationally, cash-strapped colleges and universities are selling or leasing stations to outsiders. The new owners are not committed to students, but have other agendas with plans for public radio programming or niche music formats. As broadcast licenses and studio equipment are lost; at best, students end up with Internet-only stations.
There is a counter trend and good news from Bloomington, home of Illinois State University, Normal. Student-operated radio station WZND just became the recipient of a donated LPFM license from Rock in Victory Ministries (RIVM). On September 1, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the ownership transfer of WEWT-LP from RIVM in Bloomington to the Illinois State University Foundation (ISUF), accompanied by a change in call letters to WZND-LP. 103.3 will be the Low Power FM voice of Illinois State University students, reaching nearly 75,000 potential listeners with 83 watts.
Christian station WEWT-LP, which launched on September 21, 2004 with “positive pop, dance/techno, rock, hip hop, rap, metal and hard music” for a youthful audience, has recently been experiencing severe financial problems. Although the FCC forbids LPFM operators from selling their stations, an LPFM station can be donated to another non-profit organization. As a result, RIVM gave WEWT to ISUF, which has the needed financial resources. While approvals of transfers normally take 50 days or longer; this transaction took only 44 days.
Low Power FM stations must be owned and operated by non-profit educational organizations with no other broadcasting interests. Since ISU owns the news/blues/jazz public radio station WGLT-FM 89.1 and a translator on 103.5 in Peoria, the school is not allowed to operate an LPFM. However, the separate ISU Foundation can, so it was through this foundation that the donation was processed.
ISU’s Student radio station WZND, which plays a mix of rock, hip-hop, country, and classic hits, is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary as a cable radio station. It is also heard in the Bone Student Center and on the Internet. It has a staff of 100, including 28 interns. With the donation of WEWT, the formerly unlicensed station now has an opportunity to broadcast terrestrially.
John O. Broomall, Sr., the founder and Senior Consultant for Christian Community Broadcasting, served as Consultant to Illinois State University Foundation in the above transaction. CCB was founded in 2000, shortly after the FCC established LPFM. CCB’s mission is to help churches, ministries, schools, and other non-profit organizations start and operate LPFM stations with consulting, FCC filing services, and RF equipment. John also serves as Underwriting Manager for private NCE TV station WATC-DT 57 in Atlanta. In addition, John and his wife Henri operate WPCG-LP 103.7 from their home in Canton, Georgia.