By Greg Bowman
ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – We hear a lot about the latest technology and music apps for your smart phone. But some students at the University of Michigan are still passionate about a technology that’s been around for nearly 100 years: Radio.
WCBN-FM has been on the air for more than 40 years, serving the community with its free-form programming and providing the opportunity for students to learn about broadcasting. The station first signed on the air in January of 1972.
The University of Michigan no longer supports the station in the form of direct funding, but the school still provides studio space in the Student Activities Building and a salary for a Chief Engineer.
Ben Yee has served as General Manager, Music Director, and Development Director for the station.
“We strive first of all to be a student radio station,” said Yee, “but also to serve the community. That’s why we have DJs who have been on the air for 30 some years, because they provide a certain persistence of context and knowledge for both our listeners and the new DJ’s who are coming in.”
Yee said the WCBN audience has declined in recent years thanks to competition from online services and music apps like Pandora and Spotify. But he says those services can never replace the history, knowledge, and community involvement of a station like WCBN.
Training Director Michael Newmeyer said WCBN is more than just a college radio station.
“We do a lot of concerts,” said Newmeyer. “We do a lot of lectures, and we’re extremely involved with the community. I would like at us as more of a cultural institution than a radio station.”
Newmeyer said most of the funding for WCBN’s $30,000 annual budget now comes from a major annual fundraiser held in February.
What about the station’s future?
Yee said he has no doubt the station will still be here in 40 years. “We’re going to change certainly in the time being like everything does,” said Yee. “And we see the internet as a very vital part of our existence now, more so than previously.”