There’s a disturbing trend on college campuses these days…no, not about sex, social mores or scandals. Well, not this one anyway.
It’s the apparently growing trend for colleges and universities which own broadcast licenses that are prepared to sell these golden ducats to raise cash. Stations that were once the student voices or the training grounds for journalism majors are being sold off to raise funds and reduce deficits.
A December 5th NYTimes story Waning Support for College Radio Sets Off a Debate by John Vorwald gives insight.
“But as colleges across the country look for ways to tighten budgets amid recession-induced shortfalls, some administrators — most recently in the South — have focused on college radio, leading even well-endowed universities to sell off their FM stations. That trend was felt this summer at Rice and Vanderbilt, among the most prominent of Southern universities, stirring debate about the viability of broadcast radio, the reach of online broadcasting and the value of student broadcast programming.”
Colleges that have sold their licenses, or are on the verge of doing so, include Rice, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech University and Augustana College among others.
What’s most interesting to me is the debate (and the defensive argument in favor of making the sale) over usage — are students listening to terrestrial radio or only the Internet? And does that matter? A student voice is still important, beyond the four walls of the university and into its community.
How this pans out – whether these are a few isolated examples of part of a larger trend is as yet unclear. But it is increasingly evident the value of the transmitter is considered an asset to educational institutions strapped for cash and the decision whether to sustain the station seems less about education than funding.