Drexel University’s 91.7 WKDU FM – Going Strong After 44 Years On Air

The college radio station is an endangered species. College radio stations already face the wrath of iPods and Internet streaming, but universities have also been selling their stations’ FM or AM signals to NPR, Christian music stations, and any one else that will give them a few bucks. Vanderbilt University’s WRVU and Rice University’s KTRU stations have been booted off the air, and most recently the renowned Georgia State University’s WRAS station has been severely limited to accommodate Georgia Public Broadcasting.

However, college radio stations are arguably more important now than ever. These stations typically give airtime to local and upcoming artists that would not get noticed otherwise. The stations provide invaluable “real-world opportunities” for college students of any major, and most of all, contribute an irreplaceable piece to its local community.

Rock on Philly wants to highlight some of the best college radio stations in the greater Philadelphia area, and we can’t think of a better station to start this column than with Drexel University’s 91.7 WKDU FM. Located in University City, the station began FM broadcasting in 1970. The station is completely student-run with ten board members and sixty DJs, all either current students or alumni. The station runs a free-form format where DJs control their show’s music, and its schedule demonstrates their DJs’ eclectic music tastes. Although, the board requires the DJs play a certain amount of new music from its vast collection that grows daily.

A mainstay in Philadelphia, the station has also received praise from around the country. College Music Journal (CMJ) named WKDU a “Champion of the Local Scene” in 2010 and its highest honor, “Station of the Year,” in both 2010 and 2011. MTV nominated WKDU for Best College Radio Station in its annual MTVu Woodie Awards in 2011 as well.

Rock on Philly had the opportunity to visit WKDU’s station and speak to two of its members, General Manager Peter Liu and Station Manager Esmail Hamidi, about WKDU’s legacy and future.

 

Rock on Philly: In your own words, what is kind of music does WKDU play?

Peter Liu: WKDU has always been student-run with a free-form format. We play pretty much anything you want to hear on college radio, what you won’t hear anywhere else (so no Beatles, etc.)

 

ROP: Elaborate on WKDU’s “Commit Radio Warfare” slogan.

PL: It’s kind of like a declaration of war; we go where other radio stations haven’t dared to go.

 

ROP: What is the longest show at WKDU?

PL: Probably “1100ccs of Hate,” the DJ has been here for twenty years. Our reggae shows play 12pm – 12am on Saturdays and those have been on for at least ten years.

 

ROP: What have been some advantages working here?

PL: I’ve been a member for four years and have had two shows. I think I’ve found my niche here and definitely expanded my taste in music. The people here love music and it’s hard to find that passion elsewhere on campus.

Esmail Hamidi: It’s been such a huge responsibility in the best way. I have a co-op in broadcasting [at Clear Channel Philadelphia] because of the experience at the station.

 

ROP: How would you like to see the station evolve in the next few years?

PL: We would like to expand more into the local community (like collaborating with different venues and businesses), and gain a bigger following on campus.

 

ROP: Has Drexel ever considered selling the station?

PL: No; while we do not receive much funding from Drexel, it treats us well and we are responsible regarding FCC regulations.

 

ROP: Why do you think WKDU has remained so significant in the community?

PL: We have a long history with community involvement. We air PSAs and daily public affairs segments, and occasionally will host local DJ spots on air. We had a “Black Experience” segment dedicated to avant garde and new music from black artists, and a “Sounds of Jerusalem” show that ran from 1978 to the early 90’s about Israeli music and affairs. We also include a “Philly Haps” schedule (which highlights local concerts) on our website and on-air. We try to include the community as much as possible.

 

Look for more featured college radio stations soon, and tell us in the comments what station you would like for us to highlight next!

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