WBRU-AM: New Wave in Radio
(Brown Daily Herald, March 29, 1979)
Revolutionizing the oldest college radio station in the country, with unique programming, diverse music styles, and increased receptivity to the needs of its Brunonian audience, a group of freshmen with creative ambitions for the station have sought to reverse the trend of its traditionally “negligent” listenership and inferior air quality.
So they say over at WBRU-AM.
Unlike its more prestigious (and commercial) mentor WBRU-FM—which aims its programming toward an 18–24 year old male audience, BRUAm's repertoire is intended to appeal to sundry musical tastes.
According to the station’s production manager Mike Macrone '82, “BRU-AM is the only area radio station that airs our diversity of music: folk, jazz, oldies, classical, disco, soul, new wave … we’re just not subject to the restrictions many other stations are.”
This lack of restriction is the key to BRU-AM’s recent transformation. Macrone, along with Jeff Lesser ’82 and Bill Magavern ’82, have been quick to realize the station’s potential to “reflect the creativity of the university student body in a way that FM never could.”
Their outlook is unique in that most incipient deejays view BRU-AM as a stepping stone to membership in the FM counterpart. “It is this tendency to view AM as a training ground which has weakened the quality of the station,” Lesser said.
“AM integrity was considered so low a priority that people from FM would walk right in during a broadcast and talk to a deejay trying to do a show—with the microphone on … the station itself was in massive disrepair, turntables were inoperable, records were broken and stolen … we didn't even have a clock with a second hand to time broadcasts with!” Lesser continued.
To remedy the situation, Lesser, Macrone, and Magavern met with an executive board composed of representatives from both stations. Armed with the argument that a “better organization provides a better training ground, the three freshmen requested and procured a hitherto-nonexistent AM budget.
Finding a $250 budget insufficient to finance needed renovations, BRU-AM petitioned the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) and obtained from that organization $525. In addition, the outlet now airs four to five minutes of commercials a day at a rate of four dollars per minute. With this revenue, the station managed to replenish its record supply and repair equipment.
Next year’s plans are to ask FM for $500 and UCS for $2000–$3000. This amount, described as “not at all exorbitant” by WBRU general manager Jon Klein ’80, would be used in part to extend programming to East Campus,
Besides airing its impressive variety of music, BRU-AM also airs a number of specialty programs as bizarre as the Norman Bates show, in which Bates, adopting the style of a psychotic killer, features bubblegum music by such groups as the Archies.
How successful have all these alterations been in “legitimizing” BRU-AM? “It’s hard to tell,” said Macrone, “but I think one indication is that during some of our most popular late shows, the lines are constantly tied with callers. I consider that a fair measure of success,” he nodded with satisfaction.
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First published in the Brown Daily Herald (March 29, 1979)