I’m always interested in visiting radio stations that defy the norm, which could mean that they play an unexpected genre or do experimental programming or are simply under the radar.
As I plotted out my radio station field trip wish list in advance of my visit to Urbana-Champaign for the Grassroots Radio Conference (see Paul’s recap here and my recap in Radio World), WPGU was on the top of my list because it inhabits a unique category of student radio. Although a non-profit holds the license, WPGU operates as a FCC-licensed commercial radio station. It’s run by students from the University of Illinois and it functions in many ways like a typical commercial radio station. Playlists are determined by student managers who are responsible for scheduling tracks in the station’s automation system.
Commercial radio licenses are few and far between in the world of college radio, with perhaps a dozen commercial licenses associated with universities. In some cases (as with WPGU) a related non-profit is the license holder, even though students populate the station. Other commercial stations include Princeton’s WPRB, Brown’s WBRU, Harvard’s WHRB, Cornell’s WVBR, and University of Virginia’s WUVA.