In Tampa, college broadcasters find advantages in pubradio affiliation

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The University of South Florida’s student-run radio station has forged a three-year partnership with Tampa’s WUSF Public Media to broadcast its programming as a digital multicast FM channel.

The partnership, initiated this spring by student leaders of Bulls Radio, also provides mentorship and internship opportunities for USF students with the public radio station.

WUSF is a full-service pubcaster also licensed to the university. It operates two public radio stations — NPR news and talk WUSF 89.7 FM and all classical WSMR 89.1 FM — as well a public TV station with four digital multicast channels. Last month, Bulls Radio began airing on WUSF’s HD 3 channel. The student station is also available on 1620 AM and at bullsradio.org.

“Whether students are interested in production, management, engineering, marketing or other aspects of the radio business, this new partnership with WUSF Radio is going to create a great incubator for aspiring radio professionals at USF,” said Zak Kuiper, Bulls Radio director, in an announcement of the deal.

Bulls Radio previously aired as an FM multicast channel of WMNF, Tampa’s community radio station on 88.5 FM. When that contract expired, Bulls Radio saw advantages in moving to WUSF. The pubcasting station is located on the USF campus, making it much more convenient for student broadcasters, and offered professional assistance to help Bulls Radio increase its listenership and appeal to audiences beyond the university.

“These students really have a passion for radio,” said JoAnn Urofsky, WUSF g.m. “They saw us as an entity they could come to and learn about it.”

Student broadcasters retain full creative control of their programming, said Jessica Acosta, Bulls Radio p.d. WUSF staff has primarily advised students on marketing and technical strategies.

The partnership has been welcomed by students at Bulls Radio, making it an unusual example of collegial collaboration between collegiate and public broadcasters.

As universities opted to end their involvement in broadcasting by selling licenses of their student-programmed stations, pubcasters in many cities have acquired the channels and converted them to classical music or NPR News stations. The most recent example, Georgia State University’s WRAS, is now broadcasting as an HD Radio stream of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s new NPR news service for Atlanta.

Last year, Knox College’s student-run WVKC became a full-time public radio station run by Tri-States Public Radio in Macomb, Ill., with student programming pushed online and as an HD Radio stream.