Campus Radio Revived
When Matt Kiser took the helm as the general manager of KCSC in spring 2005, the 56-year-old student-run radio station was facing a daunting number of challenges: The station had to move from their studio in Reynolds Warehouse, which was being demolished to make room for the proposed Wildcat Activity Center. Its funding—through Associated Students—was in jeopardy. And its equipment was sorely in need of an upgrade.
“The fuzzy cap on the microphone was missing, and we had put toilet paper around it so it wouldn’t pop and distort itself,” Kiser explained, laughing. “We were using cart machines, which are essentially eight-tracks, which haven’t been used in radio since at least the mid-90s. It was five to 10 years out of date.”
One of the oldest programs on campus needed a hero, and Kiser, a journalism/American studies major, was up for the challenge. He repaired the station’s relationship with A.S., securing funding for equipment upgrades and a new location. He oversaw the station’s move to the Rainbo Bread Warehouse near the intersection of 5th and Ivy streets, which included moving more than 10,000 records and 5,000 CDs and building a soundproof on-air room.
And, Kizer began working to strengthen the station’s ties on campus, ties that had unraveled over the past few decades. Now the Women’s Center and the Environmental Action Resource Center both have talk shows on the station. The Orion’s Wednesday podcasts are produced by KCSC.
The campus connection Kiser is most proud of is the new communication design class, Audio Production Practicum, which combines a lecture component with work at KCSC. Professor David Welton said that his students work as DJs, staff, and management to “gain practical experience and theoretical knowledge in audio production and vocal performance. All of the audio production work done in class is designed to be used on air at KCSC.”
“Our interns are taking a class to teach them to use Apple’s Garage Band and other audio programs to create content for the radio shows,” he said. “With our new equipment purchase, the stuff we are talking about in this class is the same stuff we are using at the station. It’s worked out great.”
The station started in 1951 as part of the speech and drama department, producing old-time radio dramas through the campus PA system. It shut down for a while, reemerging in the late 1950s as a music station.
In the 1970s, KCSC became 95.5 FM, and then was broadcast as a cable music channel, making way for the station’s 1980s heyday. During this decade, the station won several awards, including Spin magazine’s Best College Station. “A few years later, they got shut down because kids were partying down at the station,” said Kiser.
The station barely weathered the next 13 years. When the state cable provider decided to go digital, KCSC had no choice but to broadcast over the Internet in 1999, before the typical listener was likely to have anything but dial-up Internet access. “It was premature,” said Kiser, “and put the station into an identity crisis: ‘No one can listen to us at this time. How can we continue to remain positive?’” Times are better now that wireless broadband is ubiquitous.
While KCSC is currently available only on the Internet, the station is working on an application for a noncommercial educational license to broadcast as an FM station. The FCC is opening a filing window this fall. Regardless of the station’s future on FM, said Kiser, “I think KCSC is going to grow exponentially as we incorporate more Internet technologies into what we do. We can tie it into our Web site and do podcasting and blogging and offer a more fluid, dynamic experience. We just got listed in iTunes Radio, making us one of the elite college stations to be listed, and one of the few that are Internet-only.” The station gives listeners the chance to hear an eclectic selection of music and new music six months ahead of the curve, he said.
As for the future of the station, Welton isn’t worried. “The future of KCSC looks bright, thanks largely to the strong leadership and vision of Matt Kiser.” And Kiser, who graduates in May, is confident the next general manager will continue to promote the station’s involvement with the rest of campus. Reestablishing those connections, he added, “is the only way KCSC, or any student program for that matter, can survive—communicating with the people you work with, being part of the campus program.”
Listen to KCSC on the Internet at www.kcscradio.com.
All photos were taken by Matt Kiser in April 2006 during the KCSC "mass exodus" from its former home at Reynold's Warehouse. They moved out so they building could be demolishedfor the Wild Cat Activity center...