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The University of Hartford

AN INTRODUCTION
TO PUBLIC ALTERNATIVE RADIO:WWUH

  It all started in 1937. That was the year that Congress passed the Communications Act of 1937, declaring that radio frequencies were a national resource to be used for the public good and that no individual or company may "own" a given frequency. This congressional act put into law the concept that station licenses would be issued only to qualified individuals and corporations who would operate their stations in the "public interest, convenience and necessity." Licenses would be renewed based on whether the licensee served the public. Prior to that date, broadcast frequencies were treated as commodities.
  The Communications Act also created the Federal Communications Commission, and they in turn put forth regulations stating the two types of radio stations they would license: commercial stations and noncommercial. Commercial stations exist to make money for the people who run them. With the deregulation of broadcasting nearly complete, it appears to many that many commercial stations have given up their commitment to serving the public interest and instead have decided to cater to their client's interest so as to maximize their income via advertising revenue. And who are the clients of commercial radio, the advertisers of course.
  Noncommercial stations on the other hand, are prohibited by law from selling commercials. They must provide an educational service to the public. Non-com stations may be licensed only to bona fide nonprofit educational institutions. WWUH is such a station. We are licensed to the University of Hartford and serve as a community service of the University. We renew our license at seven year intervals.
  The concept of what was to become WWUH was formulated by a small group of UH students under the leadership of student Clarke Schmidt. They convinced their fellow students and the administration that the university should have its own radio station. Once given the go ahead, they found that starting a new radio station was a formidable task which required detailed engineering studies, elaborate applications to the Federal Communications Commission, raising money and building studios.
  With the help of the faculty, a substantial grant from the family of the late Louis K. Roth, and the donation of a transmitter from WTIC radio, WWUH became a reality. The station signed on the air at 4:05 on the afternoon of July 15, 1968 after more than two years of hard work. The station was the first stereo educational station in New England, and one of the strongest in the region. In the early years, WWUH's studios, transmitter and antenna were located on top of the Gengras Student Union. WWUH was the first station in Connecticut to broadcast a daily "progressive rock" program, the "Gothic Blimp Works." In the first 18 months of broadcasting, the station's dedicated volunteer staff expanded the broadcast schedule from 6 hours a day in 1968 to 24 hours a day in 1970. Listeners to the station during it's early years would often hear progressive rock, folk and classical music programs, as well as in depth news and public affairs programming.
  Over the years, the station's programming and technical facilities grew. By moving our transmitter off campus and putting it high atop Avon Mountain, we were able to extend the station's reach greatly. Our jazz programming has grown to include some of the best in the area; we currently broadcast over thirty hours of jazz every week. We have also broadcast thousands of hours of live jazz programming, including the Community Renewal Team's Festival of Jazz from Bushnell Park in Hartford. We have developed an outstanding lineup of folk, bluegrass and acoustic music programs, which are widely listened to. Our other programs offer a wide variety of alternative music and viewpoints.
  In 1989, we moved our studios and offices from the third floor of the Gengras Student Union to the East wing of the Harry Jack Gray Center. The new facilities included space for additional studios and allowed us to construct a recording studio so that we could broadcast live music with ease.
  Initially, WWUH also had an AM station, which served as a training ground for the FM operation. The first few years of licensed FM operation were so demanding on the station's volunteer staff that the AM station was turned over to the Student Association in the early seventies. In other words, WWUH-AM became WSAM and turned into a separate organization on campus. The Student Association operates WSAM today. Their low power signal only covers the campus, and they also webcast on the Internet.

PHILOSOPHY

  From day one, the station's philosophy has been to broadcast alternative programming: programming, which cannot be heard on other stations. Most listeners are used to the concept of each radio station having its own format. In the Hartford area, WTIC is the talk station, WDRC plays oldies and WWYZ plays country music. One station, one format. Such expectations on the part of the listener are hard to overcome. Once a station decides to offer a wide spectrum of programming, how does it present the programming so that it is accessible to the listener?
  Historically, stations have dealt with this problem in one of two ways. Some stations have adopted an entirely "freeform" format where anything goes anytime. In essence, these stations have rejected the concept of having a format. While a few freeform stations have been quite successful (including WPKN in Bridgeport), most listeners have slightly less eclectic taste and want some method to the madness. It is for this reason that the "block" format was created.
  On block-formatted stations, the various types of programming are arranged in blocks throughout the week making it easier for the listener to know what is going to be on and when it will be on. This is the format WWUH uses. As an example, our listeners can be assured that they will hear folk music when they tune in on a weekday between 6 and 9 am, and jazz every weekday morning between 9 am and 12 noon.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

  We have always strived to be professional both in the sound of the station, and in the technical facilities that make up the station. In some areas, college stations sound like "sandbox" radio, with the egos of young DJs dominating their programs. At these stations, a look behind the scenes often reveals dirty studios filled with equipment that is older than some of the students who work at them. At WWUH our announcers are on the air as facilitators in order to communicate with the audience. Not actors that entertain or talk down to them. And our studios are filled with state of the art broadcast equipment. In fact, our studios are better equipped than the majority of commercial stations in the state of Connecticut. Our record and CD library, comprised of close to 100,000 recordings, is one of the largest in the country.
  The station's primary commitment is to serve the community with high quality public affairs programming which addresses issues that other stations don't cover, and to air unique specialty shows which cater to specific segments of society who have been denied their own radio voice for too many years. Our public affairs programs, which range from political commentary to short-wave radio, are showcased in two prime time blocks on weekdays: from noon to 1 pm and again from 8 to 9 pm daily.
  WWUH's concern for the minority members of the Hartford community manifests itself in the many hours of ethnic and foreign language programming the station airs throughout the week. Again, we haven't hidden these important programs in the wee hours of the morning; they are showcased in prime time slots. From Friday evening's Geetanjali, a 90 minute program of music and news from India, to Saturday's Cultura E Vida, a two hour cultural program in Portuguese, each of our specialty shows have a large and dedicated following.
  A strong commitment to alternative music has also been a mainstay of the station's programming philosophy as well. In fact, about the only music you won't find on WWUH are the mainstream hits you hear on most of the commercial stations. The station has the reputation as one of the top jazz, folk and alternative rock stations in the country. Our evening classical music shows, which are deliberately scheduled when the classical stations are broadcasting news and spoken word programming, also have a huge following.
  WWUH is dedicated to serving the public. In fact, it's the listening audience that is first and foremost in our minds when we make programming decisions. Our license says that we should be serving the public, and we feel that if we aren't able to do that, we have no right to be on the air. We must also serve the needs of the University of Hartford, since the university is our licensee. The University has given the station a great deal of freedom over the years, and WWUH has earned their respect. Along with this freedom comes responsibility, the responsibility to be the best station we possibly can be. The station is also responsible to the Federal Communications Commission and we take their rules and regulations very seriously. We do everything by the book, and do not take chances that might jeopardize our license or our relationship with the university. WWUH takes its role as an alternative media outlet seriously.

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE

  A seven person Executive Committee (ECOM), which is headed by the General Manager, manages the station. The General Manager maintains day-to-day operational control over the station, and is designated as an agent of the licensee in the eyes of the F.C.C. The other members of the ECOM are the various WWUH department heads: the Operations Director, the Program Director, the Chief Engineer, the Business Manager, the Community Affairs Director and the Development Director. All major station policies are made by the ECOM.
  All of the ECOM members volunteer their time and are elected by the station's staff, with the exception of the General Manager and the Development Director, who are paid employees of the station. There are a number of sub-department heads who also help to manage the station, including the Music Director, Production Director, IT Director, Genre Directors, etc.
  The station's staff, made up entirely of volunteers, numbers well over seventy individuals. Because of our commitment to serving the public 24 hours a day throughout the year, we utilize community volunteers to supplement our student staff. While students of the University of Hartford are given priority in station membership, training and positions of leadership within the station, programs are allocated on a quality basis alone.
  Even with a volunteer staff, it takes a lot of money to keep the station going. Our 2003/04 budget was about $125,000 most of which was donated by our listeners. In 1995 we raised over $90,000 from our listeners in only two on-air fundraisers: our Marathon, which was held in February, and our special "Silent Marathon" in the fall.
  The University provides about $10, 000 in cash to help finance the station, provides tens of thousand's of dollars of "in kind" help (including studio and office space), electricity, and basic phone service. Their solid commitment to WWUH has allowed the station to grow and prosper over the last thirty-five years.
  In addition to the above sources, we receive funds from a very successful concert series, from ads in our Program Guide and from program underwriting.

© WWUH 2004

 Copyright© 2000 WWUH and the University of Hartford
   E-mail: wwuh@hartford.edu   Webmaster: KLbgrass@aol.com