Tucked away in the basement of the Student Activities Building, WCBN — the University’s student-run radio station — is hoping to bring its programming to a wider range of listeners.
The Federal Communications Commission gave the station permission last month to increase its wavelength from 200 watts to 3,000 watts. But in order to take advantage of the expansion, WCBN has to raise enough money to buy a new transmitter antenna.
Kristin Sumrall, University alum and WCBN program director, said the station, which was founded in 1971, has been at 200 watts since 1981 and has been interested in expanding for the past several years. But that wasn’t possible until recently when television waves went digital, making more wave space available.
“There was a lot of scrambling from low-power radio stations to acquire space right after TV went digital,” she said.
Sumrall said the station is “exploring options” for how to raise enough money for the new antenna, including its annual fundraiser in March and listener donations.
“It’s only permission,” Sumrall said. “Until we can actually get the transmitter, it doesn’t mean much.”
The FCC permission to increase WCBN’s coverage has a three-year expiration date. If the station doesn’t manage to install the new transmitter in time, the opportunity will be lost, though Sumrall said she believes three years is enough time for the station to raise the money.
“To be frank, I’m pretty confident that we will make it,” she said. “It’s just a question of how we pay for it.”
In addition to the fundraiser and listener donations, WCBN staff are also planning to make the community more aware of the station in hopes of acquiring more support.
One of the main reasons the station wants to expand its coverage is because it has something unique to offer, said Bryan Dulaney, University alum and WCBN production director.
Dulaney added that the station is a “vital resource” for the community because of its autonomy in deciding what to air.
“We’re very invested in having members of the community and members of the University be able to express themselves freely and be able to tap into subjects that may not get covered in mainstream broadcast radio,” Dulaney said.
WCBN is commercial-free and plays more alternative and international music than typical radio stations, Sumrall said.
The station also has several specialty programs, including an “infotainment” talk show called “It’s Hot in Here,” which discusses topics related to the environment.
Sumrall said the station also has programming that is unique to Ann Arbor, like “Living Waters” — a program featuring different writers every week — and a food satire show called, “Pandora’s Lunchbox.”
Editor’s Note: Last semester The Michigan Daily had a radio show on WCBN, which ceased production in December.