If you turn your dial to 89.1 FM, "The Point," today you will hear a variety of sounds and public announcements, all directed by the voices of SUNY Brockport students. However, 89.1 was not the first outlet for students to express themselves.
The movement for a radio station can be found as far back as 1954 when the Stylus reported that both Fredonia and Oswego had college radio stations, and research had been done into the possibility of Brockport acquiring one as well. In 1957, the first closed circuit radio program was broadcast using the call letters WBSTC to signify Brockport State Teacher's College. The broadcast included an hour of pop and rock n' roll, interspersed with some campus gossip, weather reports, sports results, and local advertisements. The program continued with some Broadway musical recordings and a discussion of the role of modern jazz. The students were hopeful that this first program would be a sign of more to come and urged their peers to donate records to increase the diversity of music offered.
Radio Brockport was finally sanctioned as a charter member of the Student-Faculty Association on December 6, 1961. It officially went on the air the following semester serving as a center for school publicity and information of interest to the campus body. The 20-member Radio club had also been formed with faculty advisors Mr. Alfred Moses and Dr. Sherwin Swartout. This club decided on several goals with this new radio station: (1) to provide students with quality programs, (2) to foster amicable relations between the college and the village of Brockport, (3) to supplement class training in speech, music and education, (4) to provide a broadcasting medium for the faculty, (5) to foster the spirit of campus unity, (6) and to serve as a medium for campus activities.
Radio Brockport, as the station was officially called, broadcast on the frequency 600 AM from a small room in the old Student Union in Lathrop Hall. It could be heard from 6-10 p.m. every weekday evening and featured such student-created programs as the Hewie Poplock Show and Rhythm and Blues with Lou Iacovino. The first couple of years the station was limited to just portions of the Brockport campus until a more powerful transmitter could be obtained.
By late 1964, the station was commonly referred to by its call letters, WBSU. The Radio Club remained active, encouraging other students to come to meetings or help out with the station. WBSU continued to bring a range of news, college activities and music to the student listeners, and encouraged feedback by featuring a top 30 music playlist and extending the on air hours.
After the completion of Seymour Union in 1970, WBSU moved to a suite of rooms complete with a record library and updated broadcasting equipment. However, the station was still limited to the confines of the campus and had a listening audience of just 4,000. To reach more students and members of the community, students began rallying to move WBSU to a FM radio frequency. However, the Board of Trustees were not eager to fund this new endeavor because it meant the construction of a completely new broadcast facility. Not all students were for the move to FM either because the larger radio audience would require a full-time staff, which would eliminate the student-run aspect of the radio station.
In October of 1975 the AM station was broadcast 24 hours a day for the first time to meet student needs. They were also carrying live campus sports events like basketball and hockey games and were affiliated with ABC news to bring the American Information Network to the ears of the student body. But there were still rumblings for the need of a FM radio station and a major victory was declared in March of 1977 when the first of three hurdles was cleared. The complete FM plan was approved by the administrative council chaired by President Brown. With the approval of the college and a guarantee of funding by BSG, the plan for a 10-watt station still needed to be approved by the SUNY Board of Trustees and the FCC before the antenna could be constructed on the roof of Mortimer Hall.
Finally, after years of bureaucratic tape and unforeseen problems, WBSU-FM hit the airwaves in January 14, 1981 at 88.9 FM. The radio station included a ten-room complex in Seymour Union that housed AM and FM control rooms, a news production facility, a commercial/programming area, three studios, and offices. The new facilities were designed by students and constructed by station personnel. The small closed circuit radio experiment that had started nearly a quarter century earlier now consisted of multiple departments including Music, Production, Operations, Public Relations, Sports, Minority Affairs, News and Sales. The FM advisory board also included a mixture of faculty advisors, staff, and students to sustain the student-run element, but also create a professional radio station.
In March of 1982, WBSU increased its power output from 10 watts to 150 watts. The change improved the station's outreach from 15 miles to about 25 miles, reaching the outskirts of Rochester. The FCC granted SUNY Brockport permission to dramatically increase the wattage from 150 to 7338 watts in November 1987 with the actual change occurring in May 1989. At this current output, WBSU can be heard in Rochester, Buffalo, and even Toronto.
Currently found at 89.1, WBSU continues to expand and is still an important part of the SUNY Brockport culture. Providing the campus with progressive music and up to date news and public service announcements, WBSU has maintained its position as a college force under the direction and influence of students. WBSU has reached a wider audience with the introduction of webcasting in 1999 and can now be heard all over the world.
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