Opinion: Sale of the WBRU FM Signal is Change We Have to Accept

WBRU 95.5

WBRU 95.5

At 11:59pm on August 31, 2017, Providence’s media landscape will change forever: 95.5 WBRU, Brown University’s radio station that was for over 40 years a haven for alternative rock and local music, sold their FM signal to the Educational Media Foundation’s Christian music radio service K-Love. When the news of the impending sale got out back in March, it was met with uncertainty by the station’s listenership. When it became official that K-Love was taking over the 95.5 dial spot, numerous folks affiliated with Providence’s music scene were up in arms about another media entity being taken away from the area’s local bands. Yes, it sucks that WBRU will no longer be heard on FM, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world when it comes to hearing local and independent music through a specific medium.

If you’re familiar with me as a writer, then you probably remember my opinion piece in Motif against Rhode Island Public Radio purchasing WUMD, UMass-Dartmouth’s radio station and 89.3 signal, back in January. I mention this because someone is going to try to call me out on contradicting myself between that article and this, but they would be wrong. There’s a difference between WBRU’s sale and WUMD’s. RIPR already had three signals before they bought a fourth, while WBRU is selling their signal to a station that’ll be broadcasting out of California and Indiana. Both WBRU and WUMD are currently broadcasting on-line, so if people really want these stations to stick around then they’ll have to adapt.

I’m not alone in saying that terrestrial radio is going the same way as the dodo and will eventually become “extinct.” In a realistic way, I mean that it’ll become redundant. If American radio listeners still want to support alt-rock, freeform and diverse stations, then they’re going to have to buy into the idea of an on-line stream. It might not be as convenient as just pushing the button on the radio to tune in, but if you have a smartphone with an auxiliary jack or a cassette adapter, then listening to internet radio is completely feasible. Who knows? It’ll probably be better than what’s left on the terrestrial end and in turn start a big change that radio in this country desperately needs.

WBRU is still going to be around but they’re going to have to rely on social media more than ever to get people to listen. The same goes for the people at WUMD. We live in an era where so many things are changing, both for the good and the bad. To hear something awesome on the radio people are going to have to log on rather than tune in. It’s a sign of the times and we might as well change with it.

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