WSUW permit will double listener range

By Emily Lepkowski

April 13, 2016

 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is rewarding UW-Whitewater a tower permit – an airspace compromise a decade in the making.   

Last December, a Transmitter tower permit was issued to UW-W’s campus radio station 91.7 “The Edge.” It’s a process that started began with UW-Madison wanting their own station in the 1990s.   

“The only reason we have not heard back is because the FCC, it was not a priority to go through transmitter applications until recently,” WSUW Director Brian Lucas said.

The only frequency available to UW-Madison happened to be 91.7, which was also home to WSUW-FM.

“They had to come up with a compromise because if they put their signal up, it was going to interfere with some of ours,” Lucas said. “So the compromise was that we were able to apply for a translator that we would be able to put up at a later date.”

The tower permit application process was completed before Lucas became the director in 2005. Lucas was told the FCC filed the application, but was not given a timeframe.   

Now the opportunity for students involved at WSUW-FM has finally arrived.

The translator, which will be located in Janesville, is a tower with a separate antenna that will cover the city, in addition to the station’s initial 20-mile radius.

“The 20-mile radius is still a lot of people but Janesville literally doubles our listeners. So I think that’s really exciting.” WSUW Program Director Lauren Koepsel said. 

WSUW-FM is able to obtain a new transmitter partially because the total cost is being split up.

“The radio station pays for some, the university pays a third and Madison also pays for some as an apology for taking airspace,” Koepsel said.

The station has a three-year window to complete the transmitter process and get everything up and running before losing the permit from the FCC.

Right now, the challenge is figuring out the exact location of the transmitter.

“We have two options,” Lucas said. “Attempt to build the tower, or find an existing tower that we can lease, or get an arrangement from and then we can use that tower.”

Another part of the process is finding the appropriate equipment, including the antenna, to send out the signal and make everything work properly.

“The original intent is just to reach a bigger audience. That’s always the goal, you want to have the largest audience you can,” Lucas said.

Janesville’s population allows WSUW-FM to do something they have never done before- connect with over 60,000 people.

“It makes your station more viable when you talk to bands coming in,” Lucas said. “Where are you, how many people do you reach, makes people want to be a larger part of what it is that you do.”

Janesville is a hot spot for Whitewater citizens as well as college students because of more food and shopping options. Lucas believes the two communities have a strong relationship and WSUW-FM’s broadcasts would be appealing for them.

“Hopefully people in Janesville enjoy the music, I know everyone here does,” WSUW News Director Ashley Devita said.

A family feel 

Sophomore Sports Director Connor Moore recalls not knowing where Whitewater was located,  to the university bumped up to first on the list of colleges he wanted to attend once he found out he could get involved as soon as you step foot on campus.   

“There’s never a dull moment,” Moore said. “We’re always joking and laughing around, we are definitely a family.” Moore said.

Moore talked about the fit between Whitewater and his personal ambition to get involved right away, an aspect that appeals to many college kids.

Devita says it’s a “good way to get your foot in the door.”

“A lot of other stations you can’t even get on air until like your junior year of college and here the first day your freshmen year you can sign up to be on air,” Devita said.

WSUW-FM offers a more flexible format that allows students to play the music they want without any restrictions.

“This is really indicative of the inclusiveness we stand for,” Station Manager Amy Upthagrove said. “We want everyone to feel welcome here, I hope we’re doing a good job, to me it feels that way.” 

91.7 The Edge WSUW isn’t just a place for broadcast majors or those who have had formal studio training. Upthagrove explains the station’s focus on balancing the different stations and  the idea that students can get real world experience without needing specific requirements.

“You can do it because you’re passionate, without any strings attached,” Upthagrove said.

New heights

With all of the momentum WSUW has established this year, the transmitter is coming at the right time.

The recent success of the organization is contributing to the ambition of the radio station’s executive board.

“We have already done so many things this semester that are an instant hit.” Moore said. Tailgating at the football games, Edgefest.” “It’s just crazy if this keeps going by the time the transmitter is up, we could be doing EdgeFest from Buffalo Wild Wings in Janesville.” 

Getting interest from students and the community as well as positive feedback also plays into the success of  WSUW 91.7, as more people look for ways to interact with the station like calling and texting in.

“The fact that we constantly always have good outreach and positive feedback is a credit to the work we do here,” Moore said.

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