Who killed the (campus) radio star?

In the internet age, should students be forced to pay for their radio station?


Students at the University of Waterloo overwhelmingly voted to end the mandatory student subsidy of CKMS radio.

Like many campus radio stations, the UWaterloo station serves as more of a radio station directed to the greater urban community of Kitchener/Waterloo than a station dedicated to students.

Not only does it have numerous programs not directed towards students (yes, students are part of the community, but many radio shows are niche – they don’t have broad appeal), it is on the FM band.

(CLARIFICATION: CKMS does stream on the Internet. Personally, I believe on-demand is the key to proper use of the Internet for an audio broadcaster)

Frankly, the FM band is pretty much a dead medium for the typical university student. Personally, I have a wind-up radio for emergencies and that’s all – even then, I will be on the AM dial. I get my radio over the tubes. (Right now, I am listening to WNYC – the NPR station in New York City) I can’t even think of the last time I used FM.

In short, the university radio station is no longer fulfilling its purpose – its not reaching students. This cannot really change. In the 80’s there was no choice, one could not get more than a half dozen stations decently in a urban area, maybe one could get a dozen – but one was limited. Today, I can get anything, anytime, from anywhere.

If I want an intellectual discussion, I go to the internet. If I want indy music – again, the internet. If I cared about university sport, I’d actually go to the live games.  (Frankly, the sports teams don’t make any difference to my degree.) It is great that radio broadcasts games, but if I’m not going to bother to go watch the game live why would I listen to it on a FM radio?

This is not to say that the community service provided by the current university radio stations is without a place – there is a demand out there for it. It’s not something students should be forced to pay.

CKMS’s soundbites since students voted against the fee lead me to believe they will fight to have the university board continue fee collection. If there really is a demand from the community at large for the service, the users should pay, not all students.  Instead of fighting against the will of students, campus radio stations should look at the National Public Radio model for their future.


Who killed the (campus) radio star?

  1. Pingback: Mike Powell Fanclub » Radio Topics for February 26th

  2. Maybe students should be required to pay 100% for their education. It really only benefits the individual and as a tax payer I really don’t like subsidizing public universities.

    It would be great to have a national referendum on that.

  3. I hope Blythesville’s comment was sarcastic (damn this Internet for not including sarcasmometer).

    Saying education only benefits the individual is completely untrue. Those graduating from each level of learning do give something back to the community as part of the jobs they hold in society. It’s not like one just gets his degree/diploma and the benefits roll in based on what it says on that piece of paper.

    A carpenter doesn’t just build his home and then stops practicing. A doctor doesn’t just heal herself. A mechanic doesn’t repair just his car. Many graduates give back for years after they have finished their education.

    The overall benefit to society largely outweighs having to pay for a small part of their education.

  4. Why stop just the funding of public universities? Why should tax payers fund elementary schools or secondary schools? Really what’s the point of free education for the low or middle classes? Let’s put the children to work at age five. Most jobs don’t require knowledge anyway! Infact, what is the point of educating, the educated become snobby and question the authority.

  5. Am I the only one who caught the sarcasm in Blythesville’s post? For those less perceptive than me, he or she was parodying the attitude that, for campus radio, “the users should pay, not all students” (original author’s words).

  6. Ideally campus stations should combine advertising, fundraising efforts and student levies.

    Stations should try and provide on-demand shows, podcasting, etc. – I know that’s where we hope to go – to be more relevant to student populations.

    However considering how little radio stations usually cost per student I think the benefits make it worth paying for. A campus station isn’t just music for students – it’s a meeting point for the campus and the larger community in which it exists, and in many ways, students are providing a larger community service by supporting their station.

  7. As a current undergrad at waterloo, I voted against being forced to pay for a radio station I couldn’t even get reception while living on campus residence, much less now that I’m renting off-campus.

    The FM isn’t quite as dead a medium as one might think it is for our generation. For those who don’t prefer keeping the computer/laptop running all night just for an alarm program to go off, the radio-alarm alternative works efficiently. Personally, I like waking up to CJBC-2 (89.9), a wonderful french music station based in Paris.