College Radio Round-Up

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When I first came to Baltimore, I remember sitting in my car, scanning the low spectrum of the FM dial, trying to find college radio. I was a college radio enthusiast – so much that I actually had my first college radio show when I was in high school. (What can I say? I was a prodigy.) I loved — and was occasionally frustrated by — college radio’s zany mix of the avant-garde, the absurd, and the awkward.

But I couldn’t find any of that in Baltimore, no matter how long I kept forlornly scanning. No surprise that I couldn’t find the college radio station of my dreams, it turns out:  According to the Chronicle, college radio is becoming increasingly endangered. As universities try to tighten their budgets, many have considered selling their FM license and switching to online-only operations — or phasing out college radio entirely.

That’s just what happened to the Johns Hopkins radio station over the past few decades. After an initial run on the AM band, the station gained popularity with students and the community in the 1970s, and switched to 88.1FM. In 2002, however, that frequency was sold to WYPR, and the university’s station switched to an online-only format. That means student DJs don’t have to bleep out profanity — and that fewer people listen.

Loyola’s WLOY (1620 AM) is one of the few that’s bucking the trend; at the same time that WJHU was selling its terrestrial radio presence, WLOY was expanding. Its operations manager, John Devecka, doesn’t see HD or online radio as a viable alternative. As he told the Chronicle, “instead of a potential listening audience of 50,000, they’ll have a potential listening audience of the eight people in town who have an HD radio.”

So what does college radio in Baltimore look like these days?

  • Johns Hopkins’ WJHU is online only, streaming here.
  • Loyola’s WLOY operates at 1620 AM. It’s probably the most active student-run station in the area.

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