Rollins College, Orlando, FL • July 15, 2000
Carl F Gauze
Let’s start with the fundamental fact. A radio station is a license to print money. Period. The license is granted gratis to a given party, and all the talk about public service and community is so much fluff to burnish that one bare fact. Now, for most stations, we see how that money rolls of the press. Blaring used car ads, fast food come-ons, all separated by just enough of the hits to keep you tuned in – all a fine balance, honed by years of experience. Other stations, also acting in the public interest, hold themselves out as the hand of God and ask for your money to keep those holy radio waves flowing. Least ingenious are the arty farty stations with their endless fund drives. Send us all your money, you cheap so and so, lest we take Barney and Garrison Keillor away from you. There are precious few stations anywhere not dedicated to the almighty dollars, and those are all affiliated with Colleges. WPRK is such a rara avis.
WPRK is now for sale, and the most recent WPRK monthly DJ staff meeting transformed into a Save The Station rally after a wave of publicity in several local papers. Two of the station leaders, speaking to the crowd on the condition of anonymity (they have scholarships, after all) went through the facts as known. Orlando’s last student run college radio station (WPRK 91.5) is now on the block. WMFE (90.7), our local PBS powerhouse, offers to upgrade the studio and transmitter in exchange for complete control over the Morning through Evening Drive Time. Students will still be allowed to program the graveyard shift, but only as interns to WMFE. The deal’s not finalized, but may be early in the fall.
All of this is perfectly legal. WPRK is the property of Rollins College, a private institution. It’s a valuable asset, and they may dispose of it as they will. Run as a student club, the license for WPRK is held by the board of regents. The school provides the license because it happens to have one, and up until now hadn’t thought of anything better to do with it. Unfortunately, WPRK also happens to be doing something unique and of actual benefit to the community, and now that will stop. Ambient music and Rasta and heavy metal hip hop may not be everyone’s idea of culture, but in a city that can’t support a symphony and gets excited about overpriced point guards, that’s about all we have.
WPRK began half a century ago, when a drive from Orlando to Winter Park actually involved passing though orange groves. A broadcasting club was a pleasant diversion and gave a few students something to do when not hanging at the I Tappa Keg house or studying for the Life Studies midterm. Today, however, we wake up and find ourselves in the 33rd largest broadcast market in the country, and you can’t even find an orange tree at Home Depot. That toy radio station is now worth big bucks, and it’s not being properly exploited. For shame, Rollins. For shame.
Radio is the most transient of art forms. Often banal, sometimes brilliant, when the DJ speaks, that moment radiates at the speed of light and is gone. Without realizing it, the puny 1300 watts in Winter Park emits more brilliance than all the rest of the stations in Central Florida. It should continue providing its whisper of weirdness. It’s not too late to express your thoughts, and if we all sing loud enough, we just might win this war. Send your comments to Rollins College (http://www.rollins.edu), and send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info, visit http://www.rollins.edu/wprk and http://home.att.net/~julie.dinh/freewprk/freeprk.html.