Students scheduled to launch new campus radio station in spring 2003

December 5, 2002

A Maryville College radio station has been absent from the campus for a long time. Too long, decided Maryville College students Ben Roe and John A. “Andy” Robinson.

WZUP Scots Radio is scheduled to begin broadcasting during the Spring 2003 semester. The date will mark decades – not just years – since radio shows produced by MC students have been heard.

According to historical documents, the College broadcasted events from campus twice weekly by remote control through station WROL of Knoxville beginning in February of 1941. The agreement is believed to have ended some 20 years later.

According to Roe, a senior and WZUP station manager, interest in a radio station again surfaced in the early 1990s, but work on the project didn’t get very far. As a freshman when he served as a vice president of the Student Government Association, Roe became interested in a radio station discussed by upperclassmen Jason Day and Josh Noah.

“Jason Day assumed the reigns of the [campus radio station] project during the spring of 2001, and at that time, the scope of the project was much larger. It was envisioned that the radio station would broadcast to the greater Maryville city community.”

Roe said regulations and licensing costs by the Federal Communications Committee ended those visions.

“Jason saw the project through the end of 2001, but then his [senior] thesis really put constraints on his involvement,” Roe continued. “In January, I asked Jason if he would mind me picking up where he left off.”

Day didn’t mind, and Roe quickly organized a group of students who researched marketing and advertising, technical challenges, production, broadcasting and other areas.

When asked about the range of technology his team explored for turning dreams into audio reality, Roe initially responded: “Wow.”

With the help of both on-campus and off-campus professionals, the group explored carrier current, fiber optic transmission, cable system transmission and multicasting. In all of those options, set-up costs presented too much of a hurdle. Ultimately, the players involved decided on unicasting, which works much like a website.

“Most streaming audio is done in unicasting,” Roe explained. “You have a server that delivers content (in our case, audio), and a computer accesses that server, sends a request for that information, and the server delivers it.”

Technical challenges weren’t all Roe, Robinson and his group of approximately 30 students have faced in the last two years. There have been political hoops the organization had to jump through – SGA recognition and approval, funding approval, approval by the Student Life Committee and approval by the President.

Roe and Robinson organized student forums, listener surveys and informational sessions with the radio station as the topic. At times, Roe admitted, the endeavor was energy-sapping and time consuming. But it all paid off.

“Ben Roe and Andy Robinson have been great examples of student leaders on this project,” said Dr. Bill Seymour, vice president and dean of students. “They have done a great deal of research and planning to bring about an exciting new program to our campus community.

“These students have demonstrated to others that commitment, patience and cooperation pay off with success.”

Unicasting does have limitations. The biggest one, according to Roe, is the fact that students, faculty and staff will have to be logged on to the College’s network to listen.

And the format?

“WZUP will be playing a representative mix of music and will also include programs covering debates, sports, talk shows, etc.,” said Kathy Baden, a senior and radio station team leader. “Stay tuned for the upcoming tunes of WZUP.”

The benefits of tuning in, Roe said, will be numerous.

“On one hand, it will definitely improve communication and community. That’s probably obvious, but this radio station is also going to increase so many opportunities to learn so many different skills,” Roe said. “Students will be learning about broadcasting and how to DJ, they’ll be working with industry-standard equipment, building websites and developing leadership skills.

“I think having a radio station will also boost school spirit. We plan to give free advertising for any on-campus activity. We may do play-by-play at ballgames. The coaches are interested in a show where we highlight big games and key players,” Roe concluded. “We hope to get students more involved.”