College radio, though unseasoned, can be an uncut gem — a diamond in the rough. College towns throughout the nation have embraced the aura of this media outlet where students can uncover and share a whole world of music, opinion, and news with as many people as their signal towers can reach. Despite its thriving arts scene, Charleston is missing something intangible that can only be accessed through the air waves: the voice of a student population.
Currently, College of Charleston radio survives on the enthusiasm of its volunteers and listeners who are willing to deal with the internet-only broadcasts on www.cofcradio.com. The fact that the station has not been on the FM dial is not the fault of those heavily involved, but rather a culmination of limiting factors and obstacles it has faced since its start in 2000.
CofC Radio actually went on the dial for a brief period in 2005, broadcasting over the air without certification from the Federal Communications Commission or permission from the dean of communications. It was a major slip-up. Afterward, new leaders emerged and worked tirelessly to revamp the music selections and make a name for themselves in the community. Without modern equipment and structured programming, the station was nearly unlistenable. It was usually a bunch of students laughing on the mics, playing Mozart and Iron Maiden back-to-back.
Current General Manager Caroline Millard, Technical Director Nate Mallard, Programming Director Katie DeBruhl, and Public Relations Director Perri Kilcourse have worked through the process of certification and improving the programming — and weeding out the dummies through an interview process with potential DJs.
“Unfortunately there’s a lot of government red tape to go through,” says Millard. “We do, however, have some great people at the college helping us out. Hopefully, we’ll be on this year — fingers crossed.”
The station has been putting the word out through social events at the Music Farm, like last year’s Red AIDS awareness and Paparazzi! events, which combined brought in over 1,000 people. The next big gig is a dance party scheduled for Thurs. Nov. 13 at the Music Farm.
“We’ve gone from having 50 people show up to our events to having a line out the door,” says Millard.
Many colleges in the Southeast have their own student-run FM stations that broadcast daily on the airwaves and online. It is a challenge for Charleston to secure a new frequency due to the number of stations already in the local market.
“The last time they [the FCC] made a frequency available in the Charleston area was over 10 years ago,” says Mike Robertson, senior director of media relations at the College of Charleston. “The College has applied many times in the past, but has never been accepted. The competition for these frequencies is very strong.”
College radio offers a wide range of musical genres. You won’t hear any Top 40 songs from the last 40 years. And all the news is announced by a real live person. Listeners get an underground perspective — something you just can’t find anywhere else on the dial.
Looking at the number of students who are now getting involved and attending the events, the audience for CofC Radio is growing. Placing more importance on them seems like common sense.
“Unless we are able to buy an existing frequency, which could cost well over a million dollars, or have one donated to us, there is nothing we can do about having an on-air station,” says Robertson.
Financially, it would be improbable for CofC Radio to purchase an existing station, but a donation seems to be something that no one is willing to make.
“The College will still apply anytime the FCC opens up a frequency,” Robertson says. “We do not plan to give up the fight to get one.”