New digs for University of Wisconsin-Madison's student radio station


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Posted by madcityradio.com on February 11, 2009 at 11:40:51:

New digs for University of Wisconsin-Madison's student radio station

by Deborah Ziff | WSJ
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Listeners might never again hear the charming sound of a bus engine rumbling behind the smooth talk of a morning DJ.

And students likely wonít need to suffer spiritedly through shifts in a 100-degree studio, overheated by broadcast equipment.

The new digs for the University of Wisconsin-Madisonís scrappy student radio station, WSUM-FM (91.7), make up in quality what they lack in winsome idiosyncrasies. Not bad for a radio station that ran afoul of the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1990s and only began legally broadcasting over the air seven years ago.

For the last 13 years, the station had been in The Towers on State Street, standard office space that was never intended to house a radio station.

The new station, on the fourth floor of UW-Madisonís sleek student services tower, 333 East Campus Mall, is palatial in comparison, 3,000 square feet that includes soundproofed studios, a mixing studio, a news booth and three listening rooms.

Former chancellor John Wiley allocated $400,000 in unrestricted donor funds last year so the station could buy state-of-the-art digital equipment.

The station is run by about 170 student volunteers and a small paid staff with a budget of about $300,000, funded by student fees.

"Weíre kind of everybodyís best kept secret," said General Manager Dave Black. "Just the current location is worth a $50,000 a year PR budget as far as Iím concerned."

Black said he thinks WSUM could stand up to almost any student radio station in the country in terms of quality. Because theyíre not beholden to advertisers ó or, truth be told, listeners ó students can experiment with radical sounds and artists. The station gets about 75,000 distinct listeners on air per year and half that online.

"Itís not an electronic sandbox," Black said. "Itís an educational experience and itís important."


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