Lakeland College seeks to finalize plans

Peter Ludolph, Staff Reporter

Imagine tuning into the sound of Lakeland’s own Internet radio station. Unbeknownst to many, the plans for a station have been in the works for several years and are now at the point where they could potentially become a reality.

Why an Internet radio station as opposed to an actual FM or AM station? That has to do primarily with cost.

According to John McKenzie, instructor of communication, “It would cost about $20,000 to get everything set up for a campus Internet radio station. After the upfront costs, there would actually be very little in cost to maintain the station. Something like 40,000 songs is only $600 a year.”

Additionally, McKenzie believes there has been an overall shift in radio usage.

“Research has shown that most people are getting their radio from the Internet anyway,” McKenzie said. “There has been a shift from broadcast radio being dominant to it being about a 50/50 split.”

There are also quite a few apps for Android and iPhone that feature college radio stations. McKenzie discussed that Lakeland might get involved in a radio app once the station is started.

According to McKenzie, the programming would be a “wide mix of different things,” and a few ideas have come up about live casting Lakeland College athletic events, convocations, plays and music events, as well as playing standard music and shows.

“It has a lot of advantages to it, and it definitely adds to the Lakeland Community,” McKenzie said. “It connects students with faculty and staff. It connects students with alumni. Since it is on the Internet, it allows anyone to listen to it from around the world.”

The station could operate 24/7 or it could have a set schedule and just have repeat programming during the off hours.

“The beauty of an Internet radio station is that we can kind of do whatever we want in that sense,” McKenzie said. “(There would need to be) training, but there would absolutely be room for volunteers.”

There are students in the Lakeland community who feel that an Internet radio station would be a great addition to campus.

“I think a college radio station would be good to help inform students of the events happening on campus, like discussions, sports and local events,” said Crystal Dickman, sophomore history major. “It gives students more of an opportunity to participate on campus by having volunteers for the station.”

But, what will it take to solidify the plans for an Internet radio station?

According to Lakeland College President Dan Eck “The equipment over the past several years has become more and more affordable. If we find $20,000 to $25,000 seed money, we could make it happen.”

According to Eck, the main problem is the campus Internet connection.

“The problem stems from our bandwidth and speed of connection,” Eck said. “To have a real true quality experience, we have to make sure the speed of data going out of the campus could withstand an Internet radio station, keeping in mind the primary role of the Internet being the instructional capabilities.”

It is not that the current Internet could not support a radio station at least part of the time. The problem is that there are certain times where it definitely could not and may pose a risk of interference with academic activities.

“In the evenings, when an Internet radio station might see the most activity, is also when our evening programs rely heavily on our Internet service. Evenings are also when students heavily use Netflix, Hulu and access the Internet for other miscellaneous uses,” Eck said.

The Internet capabilities of Lakeland would need to increase to allow an Internet radio station to develop. The problem is that the Internet providers in the rural area where Lakeland is located do not offer as high speed of a connection as needed.

“I would like to spend the time this academic year trying to figure out how (to) work around that limitation,” Eck said.

Eck thinks the potential radio station is something that will help Lakeland grow in the community and bring the campus together.

Many other colleges have Internet radio stations. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a prominent radio station on campus like most of the UW extensions. Many private colleges in Wisconsin also have radio stations, such as Marquette University, Carroll University, Ripon College and more.

With the rise of an Internet radio station at Lakeland, there is also a potential for a new class.

“There is potential for a radio version of the Mirror-Practicum class (which produces the campus newspaper),” McKenzie said. “(It would be) a Radio-Practicum.”

It would likely develop after the radio station has been established for a while

Currently, everything is planned out for Lakeland’s own radio station. All that is needed is the funding for the building of the station and an Internet connection that will provide appropriate speeds to support such a system.

“If we had an outpouring of interest from students who want to be involved and want to be connected—and say ‘I want to be involved next year,’ for example—I think people would listen to that,” McKenzie said.

If you want to let your voice be heard in order to hear your voice over the radio, you may email McKenzie, Eck or David Gallianetti, director of communications.