On Campus

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.