The Big88: Why College Radio Needs to Survive

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, New Paltz’s beloved radio station (WFNP 88.7), along with seven other state-native, student-run and non-commercial stations who share channel 88’s FM airwaves banded together to build “New York’s largest FM station” for a day in order to raise awareness about the educational value of public-access radio. 

Nicknamed the Big88 by the event’s creator Andy Gladding – station manager and chief engineer for Hofstra University’s WRHU – each of the eight participating schools got an hour-long slot to showcase their best programs and talk about the culture of their respective stations. Besides WFNP and WRHU, Rutgers University’s WRSU, Long Island University’s WCWP, William Patterson University’s WPSC, Plainview Old Bethpage JFK High School’s WPOB, Syosset High School’s WKWZ and Westchester Community College’s WARY were the other six participating school stations. 

Gladding had hoped that the combined efforts of each school’s staff would highlight the importance of college radio and tangibly combat the attempts made by many schools across the country in the past few years to cut their own radio budgets due to radio’s “lack of relevance.” 

“About 10 to 12 stations a year are either killing or selling their [FM] licenses because the schools don’t understand their value,” said Gladding. “College radio stations are under attack; it’s a misunderstood thing. The general public has a misconception of how powerful radio is, and how it is the only media format left that you don’t actually have to pay for.” 

In New York, we are privy to expansive news coverage of our towns and cities as well as having easy access to a wide array of cultural outlets. However, none of these services exist for free. It costs money to read local newspapers online. It costs money to stream over Spotify or Apple Music. Not only do you have to pay for the device in which you are listening to or reading on, you then have to pay for the data in order to make that device work and then pay the individual companies who are providing those niche services. 

“There are underserved news deserts all over this country that rely on broadcast radio for their information, which is a big part of the conversation that no one is talking about,” said Gladding. “It [is a public service] that shines in times of disaster communications. You don’t have the ability to unicast in the same way using data that you can with FM waves.” 

On top of the Big88 being a magnificent display of cooperation and friendship between the radio stations of eight different schools, it also allowed their corresponding DJs and engineers to talk about their own experience with the radio and how it has transformed their experience and shaped their career paths. 

“As corny as it may be, music and radio bring people together,” explained Valerie Turco, New Paltz’s Director for the Center of Student Media. “I think if you ask any of the 60 members that we have on staff right now they will say that at one point or another, the radio station was the thing that kept them going. It’s a training ground. You walk out of here knowing how to use the equipment and knowing how to do real FM radio.”

By the end of the day on Nov. 8, Gladding had created a fully student-run, state-wide radio station that consisted of about 500 members and represented young people over a broadcast diameter of 120 miles. It was an incredible feat of organization, creativity and passion on part of the DJs and the schools themselves. Support your local radio station and listen to WFNP The Edge on 88.7 FM. Our DJs work so hard! 

About Gabby Gagliano 50 Articles
Gabby is a third-year, digital media production major. This is her first semester as Sports Editor and her third semester at The Oracle.