Friday, March 11, 2011

The HBCU Radio Guide

"Historically Black FM" actually used to be the slogan of  91.5 KGRM at Grambling State University. GSU is a 4-year, liberal arts university founded in 1901.  But it's not just any liberal arts school. They were established for black farmers by the Farmers’ Relief Association of Ruston and. Dr. Booker T. Washington.They are a historically Black University, a classification that is usually abbreviated HBCU. More here.

In the United states there are a total of 104 HBCU schools. Interestingly, a statistically high number have their own radio stations. Some are more recent LP licenses such as WRWS-LP, WASU-LP, WLCD-LP and WFVS-LP. Also notably, Miles College was granted a CP for 88.7 WMWI back on 3/19/2009. At 13,000 watts that's nothing to scoff at. Six of them are old closed cable stations including the often awarded WDSU at Delaware State.  They were awarded "Station of the Year" atthe annual Black College Radio Convention in 1998. [Link] (image below)

Many of these are Class A stations, only a handful are really powerhouses. Notably both WFSS and WJAB are 100,000 watt monsters. But a dozen others are below 1,000 watts FM. There's also a pattern among formats. 12 are Urban, 4 smooth jazz, 10 Jazz and 4 are gospel. All of these are exceedingly rare in the general pool of College radio stations.Of the 104 existing HBCU colleges and universities 53 have college radio stations of some form, be it AM, FM, low Power, Internet, Cable, Part 15 or a traditional terrestrial broadcaster. As always the cable, and part 15 station may or may not be currently active. It's difficult to tell.

But the total is 51%. That's a higher percentage than the average. I thought at first this might be due to some explosion of HBCU schools during the rise of radio, but that's not the case. Two thirds of the schools were founded before 1900, before radio was even a popular hobby. but notably the newer HBCU schools are less likely to have real stations. Of the 18 HBCU schools founded after 1920 (the year KDKA was licensed) only three have radio stations of any kind, and one, J. F. Drake State Technical College has an amateur radio club N4DTC. That's only 16%. More here.

There were plenty of FM educational licenses to be had over the years, but these later universities didn't go for it. They passed on the Class D licenses, an the two rounds of LP licenses that have come and gone. These schools don't even have affiliated Internet stations. I interpret this as a disinterest in the Communications major or possibly toward broadcast media.  But, according to AAPRC, there are approximately 1.5 million listeners of Black public radio stations. They must be doing something right.  The array of data was interesting to me so I researched and typed out a simple little excel file with the data and wrapped it up as a pdf. You can download it below.
To Get All 48 KB 
Download HERE