Tyrades! By Danny Tyree
So, did you participate in the inaugural National College Radio Day on October 11?
An alarming number of cash-strapped colleges have been selling their licenses and frequencies to raise funds. So more than 300 North American college and high school stations banded together to raise the profile of college radio and tout its contributions to the student body, undiscovered musicians and the mainstream media.
Universities have probably done a poor job of publicizing their stations. Even basic information gets overshadowed by other collegiate issues. (“What’s our frequency? It’s 89-point-5. Oh, you mean the STATION frequency. I thought you meant how many times a year do we raise tuition.”)
Fans of idiosyncratic college stations bemoan the growing consolidation of commercial stations. Chains do not like to admit to heavy-handed corporate control or homogenization of content, but they come down pretty hard on on-air talent who accidentally read the parenthetical expressions in company press releases. As in “We are proud to be a vibrant member of (insert name of godforsaken Podunk community)…”
Granted, even if some commercial station that panders to the lowest common denominator takes over a license, there will still be a college presence. The station will certainly want Prof. Jones from the biology department to bring his collection of slime molds. (“We’d like to use them as a FOCUS GROUP and ask them a few questions.”)
The open-minded folks at campus radio stations showcase the music that no one else will showcase. I’d wager that in kindergarten the DJs were the kids who would EAT the things that no one else would eat. (“Thanks for coming by the station. Sorry about eating your electric guitar. But Tuffy double dog dared me to try it.”)
The activists want to make sure we continue to have choices. You can choose the mainstream for-profit stations with their playlists etched in stone or the college station where the playlist is written on an Etch-A-Sketch by a DJ’s roommate who IS stoned.
Curmudgeons with no sympathy for the plight of college radio think of it as just a left-wing tool. Yes, they do have discussions such as “Taxpayer-funded Abortions For Octogenarians: When Did It Stop Being A Basic Human Right?”; but maybe instead of letting the stations die, critics should stage a right-wing coup. Then we could hear “Tax Cuts And How They Could’ve Saved Pompeii” or “Waterboarding For Split Infinitives.”
Besides, with their meager audiences, how much indoctrination could the stations do? (“Power to the people! Power to the people! Er..,.I mean, power to the person! Power to the person! Aagghh! I forgot he has a dental appointment.”)
A number of observers have suggested that more money could be diverted to the radio stations from the athletics department. The administration is quick to point out that the school prioritizes according to the programs that serve the greatest number of students. Just don’t get uppity and ask how many students get to use the president’s Jacuzzi. (“Um, er…this isn’t a popularity contest!”)
Despite being called a dinosaur, college radio remains relevant. Give it a listen. Open up your mind. Open up your heart. Open up your wallet. Open up your refrigerator and see if anything in there would like to fill out a radio station survey…
©2011 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”. Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info on using columns, please email Cari Dawson Bartley at email@example.com or call 800 696 7561.