Sounding Out Oneonta: Public Interest Programming on WONY 90.9 FM Student Radio
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AbstractWONY is the student-run college radio station at SUNY Oneonta. A noncommercial educational (NCE) radio station licensed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it is licensed to the State University of New York (SUNY) and assigned the call sign “WONY” and the frequency 90.9 FM. Though operated as a student club through the Student Association (SA), WONY’s status as a federally regulated broadcaster serving the larger Oneonta region makes it a rather unique institution within the college. Among other requirements, WONY has a legal mandate to “transmit educational, cultural, and entertainment programs to the public.” In particular, the FCC requires each broadcast station to air a reasonable amount of programming responsive to significant community needs, issues, and problems as determined by the station. WONY must report compliance with this public interest mandate every quarter, and the successful delivery of these responsive programs is among the primary materials the FCC takes into consideration when the radio station’s broadcast license is renewed every eight years. Producing this type of community-oriented programming, though, requires a considerable commitment of time, energy, and ideas – resources that can be hard to come by when WONY is volunteer-run and student involvement is strictly extracurricular. This presentation investigates a few solutions that SUNY Oneonta faculty and students have devised to help WONY create issue-responsive programming that fulfills this public interest obligation while also making WONY an even more effective voice for the college. These include classroom-based projects such as the Oneonta Voices podcast, which students in Dr. Andrew Bottomley’s MCOM 340 Participatory Media class produced in 2018-19. Other students in the Media Studies program’s MCOM 253 Introduction to Audio Production have been making public service announcements (PSAs), which are short messages for nonprofit organizations and social causes that are aired on WONY every hour. Student club members have also created a series of person-on-the-street style interview segments called “WONY Asks,” where they choose a topic of concern to the campus community and then interview a cross-section of strangers in public spaces on campus to get their perspectives on the subject. Students have also been recording brief inspirational messages from faculty – advice on college, careers, and life – that are then interspersed into regular broadcasts. This presentation will offer brief audio examples of this creative programming that WONY is producing for the education and enjoyment of the SUNY Oneonta campus and surrounding communities.