Trying To Catch A New Wave: KSLU-LPFM

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Someday it may be possible to tune into a campus radio station with information like whether or not it is okay to park in Holy Cross, or if Olive-Compton is the only parking choice. That station would be right here on campus, and the DJs would be SLU students.

SLU currently has a student-run cable radio station called KSLU. Residents are able to tune in on cable station 12.

Commuters can catch glimpses of it a few places around campus, but most don’t have the option to hear it regularly.

Elizabeth Staley, a graduate commuter who did not know about KSLU’s existence, said she would listen to it if it was on the radio.

Someday, students may be able to do just that. This depends on several factors.

First, KSLU’s application for a low power FM (LPFM) broadcast station has to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Then it has to be approved by the administration at SLU.

“Right now we are preparing to submit an application to the FCC,” said Brian Suda, KSLU’s general manager.

The FCC is not certain how many stations it will be authorizing nationwide, but the St. Louis area will have four stations available.

They will be authorizing LPFM to non-commercial, not-for-profit services, such as government and private educational organizations.

Whether or not KSLU is authorized depends on several things.

One of the most important factors is how many people in this area apply for an LPFM station.

Other factors include how long the groups applying have been involved in their communities and how many hours a day they are promising to be on air.

“In having a LPFM station we would have looser restrictions. For example we would only have to broadcast five hours a day,” Suda said.

Those awarded LPFM stations will have either 10 or 100-watt stations, which would cover up to a five-mile radius.

So, as long as commtuers and residents are within that five-mile radius. They would be able to tune in from any radio.

Even if KSLU is granted authorization by the FCC, that does not necessarily mean that SLU administrators will approve or that KSLU will be ready.

“KSLU would have to look carefully at how the station runs now and how it would need to operate with a LPFM,” said Chris Grabau, KSLU’s advisor.

There are also a lot of legal, public relations and financial issues that would have to be discussed and reviewed.

“It costs absolutely nothing to submit an application, but technologically, we need to purchase some new equipment, like the box that would submit our signal,” Suda said.

KSLU would also have to make some adjustments. Specifically, they would need to educate the DJs about what they can and can’t say on air.

“With any growth also comes more responsibility and liability, so we need to train DJs adequately about what to say and not say about the University, since we would become another voice of the University,” Suda said.

Many students are excited about the prospect of KSLU’s going on air.

Rich Bergin, operations director of KSLU said, “This is my fifth year with the station and since day one, I have been dreaming that this would happen. To know that it may happen during my time here at SLU blows my mind. We have all put a lot of work into this and I am really excited that we may be able to be a professional station.”

Also in the works is web radio, where listeners would go to KSLU’s web site and listen to live and pre-recorded music and shows.

KSLU has recently purchased a web cam which will allow listeners to put a face with the voice they are hearing.

“It is hard to justify our having a full-power FM station, since we don’t have a major in broadcasting at SLU. But we have moved from having nothing, to having cable channel 12. So now the next logical progressions would be both via the web and LPFM,” Suda said.

Ultimately, being on air would allow everyone, whether resident or commuter an opportunity to listen to KSLU.

Some students find it annoying that it is on television.

“I don’t like having to watch TV to listen to the radio, so it would be great if they were on the radio,” said Joe Restivo, an on-campus resident.

On the FCC’s web site, Federal Commissioner Gloria Tristani said, “One of the most important things we can do is to give a voice to the voiceless. That’s why low-power radio is so important.”