New Radio New College brings music, community
Founded in January by first years Kay Saffe and Zane Plattor, New Radio, New College seeks to offer Novocollegians with a forum to share their interests with fellow students and gain experience in broadcasting while fostering an engagement with the wider Sarasota community. Hosting its programming on Tumblr, a microblogging platform, New Radio, New College will soon be expanding its off-campus reach with one-hour slots every Friday and Saturday night on WSLR 96.5. Saffe hopes that New Radio, New College will help showcase the diversity of talents and personalities at New College and “bring more unity on campus.”
“We already have a radio station and it’s downtown,” Plattor said, referring to WSLR. “But kids don’t really know its ours. The New College community can’t maintain a radio station, we can’t do a radio station on our own – there aren’t enough kids that are really into it.”
Intending to pursue media studies, Plattor wanted to gain more hands on experience with broadcasting but was soon confronted with a disappointing lack of resources and community interest. Although WSLR is an enthusiastic supporter of student created content, Saffe and Plattor wanted the new student radio station to be highly accessible to contributors and listeners alike.
The history of radio at New College has been one marred by a series of false starts, technological difficulties, and a paucity of student and community engagement. In 1965, attempts were made to fund a student run radio station, a plan which soon sputtered out when, for reasons which were never specified, the funds were returned in full to the student allocation board.
In 1970, the dream of a New College radio station was rekindled, this time finding greater success despite the station’s short reach. Broadcasting out of Palmer A, New College Radio captured the rollicking spirit of the times, with staff members regularly running illicit wires through the Pei tunnels to ensure reception across campus. Helmed by a group of notoriously freewheeling Disc Jockeys, New College Radio suffered from a chronic lack of programming consistency, those DJs often flouting even the most basic broadcasting standards.
During this period, records were often left to skip while the DJs went to grab a bite to eat and the hiss of a freshly opened beer would often be heard punctuating song changes. Technological problems soon beset the nascent radio station, a plague of phone outages, equipment difficulties and a chronically low broadcast range thwarted even the most ardent of supporters. Despite the slew of problems, New College Radio managed to limp along into the early 2000s.
In 2003, after five years of contentious negotiations with competing non-profit groups, the New College Student Alliance (NCSA) secured the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license formerly held by a Christian radio station broadcasting out of Miami. Thus, WSLR 96.5 FM was born. As part of the deal, the NCSA agreed to collaborate with the other bidders and create a board of governors composed of students and community members. However, bedeviled by a lack of institutional continuity, programming consistency, investment and student involvement the radio station’s on-campus tenure was short lived.
“It wasn’t continued after people graduated, so it basically disintegrated,” Saffe explained.
A mere six years after its founding, the NCSA voted to turn over the broadcasting license to WSLR Inc. and its broadcast operations were relocated to downtown Sarasota. Although continuing to provide New College students with a forum in which to gain broadcast experience including internships and broadcast time, WSLR is no longer directly affiliated with the college.
Undeterred by this rather fraught history, Plattor teamed up with Saffe, a fellow college radio enthusiast, determined to bring accessible and engaging radio to the New College campus. Well aware of the hurdles their project would face, the duo took a decidedly 21st Century approach to the problem. Christening the project New Radio, New College, Saffe and Plattor decided to host the new radio station on Tumblr, which allows any New College affiliate to upload podcasts onto Soundcloud and showcase them on the station’s page.
Initially begun as an ISP, the online radio station has since grown to include programming and content from students and faculty alike. With plans to expand their offerings in the coming months, New Radio, New College is now working on a partnership with WSLR to broadcast one-hour blocks of programming on Friday nights. With the costs of procuring an FCC license and maintaining FM radio equipment prohibitively high, Saffe and Plattor hope that their plans for a kind of hybrid radio station will harness the proliferating power of social media while still maintaining strong ties to the Sarasota community.
First-year Asher Lovell, host of the electronic dance music podcast “Hardly A Riot,” is excited about the opportunity to expand his musical repertoire and audience through New Radio, New College. Although known for his electronic dance music production and performances, Lovell plans to host a podcast featuring experimental and alternative music where he can “play the stuff that no one wants to hear during PCP.” ‘Although primarily offering alternative rock and electronic dance music, Saffe and Plattor plan to expand the station’s programming to include news and talk shows as well as featuring broadcasts of New College concerts and events. All of which would be hosted on the station’s Tumblr and, possibly, make its way onto WSLR.
“I think that’s the best thing to do,” Saffe said. “We’re trying to make New College a bigger presence at WSLR. We’re totally part of the Sarasota community so we should show it.”
Additionally, Plattor hopes that “by providing a simpler stepping stone,” their endeavor will encourage more students to contribute their unique tastes, talents, and perspectives to both New Radio, New College and the Sarasota community.
Information for this article was found on http://wslr.org/wslr-history and the NCF archives .