Fifty years is a long time to wait for a student radio station.
In 1949, Ohio State President Howard Landis Bevis declared that WOSU would not be a student station. In 1950, WOSU received its broadcast license. Since then OSU has acquired seven more non-commercial licenses for stations including: WOSU-AM, FM and TV, WPBO-TV Portsmouth, WOSB and WOSV acting as signal re-broadcasters.
All eight licenses are held by the OSU Board of Trustees. They are the final arbiters of content. As one person put it: If they decided tomorrow that the radio stations would exclusively play salsa, the stations would.
So why doesn’t OSU want a student run radio station?
Since the declaration by president Bevis, the university has shown almost no support of this concept. Compared to OSU’s benchmark institutions, Ohio State is laughably far behind. While the University of Michigan student radio station is licensed and broadcasting at 200 watts of power; The Underground, OSU’s student operation, was broadcasting at less than one watt.
“Was” is correct, because it had to shut down its broadcast antenna, because it was too powerful for the license. On Feb. 18, field tests by the FCC found that signal strength was too high. In other words, you could hear it beyond Taylor Tower. Now The Underground is only available on UNITS Channel 19 or via the station’s Web site at www.underground.fm. Try listening to that on your radio.
Because there are no new frequencies open in the Columbus area, the station is trying to get a license by obtaining an application to broadcast on the frequency of 91.5. This frequency has been blank since 1992, and there are several groups trying for that non-commercial slot. In December The Underground lost its bid to get a low-power broadcast license, so this full-power one may be the answer.
Perhaps it is time for OSU to make up for its past indifference, if not hostility, to a student radio station. The university could add its lobbying weight behind The Underground’s effort for the license.
Ohio State could also explore changing WOSU-AM to a student station orientation. Now it is a clone of WCBE. Not only could a student presence liven it up, but it could return the valuable broadcast experience of working on a full-power station to OSU students-something currently lacking here.
In either event, after 50 years of no student broadcast voice at Ohio State, the situation must change.