Technology may kill the radio-broadcasting program at Grand View University.
In an email to alumni on Sept. 14, Stephen Winzenburg—communications professor at Grand View University—announced that KDPS 88.1 will no longer receive $18,000 to broadcast over-the-air.
Winzenburg— a professor for 29 years and 45 year member in the radio industry—says Grand View University pays $14,000 a year to lease air time on an FM station and another $4,000 to get the signal transmitted.
Winzenburg says 90 percent of the KDPS audience comes from the radio, but starting Dec. 1 broadcasts will be streamed online only.
“In the tech world it seems like everyone is always pushing for the latest and thinking that everyone is jumping on board with that and it’s not true,” Winzenburg said. “There are still an awful lot of people that are listening to the old-fashioned over the air radio.”
Central Iowans are able to hear KDPS 88.1 from 3 p.m. till 7 a.m. during the weekdays and 24-hours a day each weekend. Its programming contains music, Grand View University campus news, student content, football and basketball broadcasts and Kids Radio Mania programming on weekends.
As a station KDPS is an eight-time winner of the, “Station of the Year” award from the Iowa College Media Association.
Radio also fulfills a core requirement for oral communication at Grand View University.
A radio broadcasting history lesson
Winzenburg said as technology was becoming more prevalent in the 90’s, an FCC rule change allowed larger companies to buy more radio stations. Companies like iHeart in Des Moines were able to buy hundreds of stations across the country.
And as the 90’s wore on, Winzenburg said stations would cut staff and use more technology—similar to what the newspaper industry is currently experiencing—to increase efficiency and the bottom.
“Technology has dramatically impacted the style of programming because it’s less personal,” Winzenburg says.
He said the industry has never recovered from a third of all radio workers leaving the business in the 90’s.
In 2017, some stations use one announcer—and change their name—to broadcast in several states, Winzenburg says.
“What radio has done is used technology to be more lazy and save money.”
Research in a 2017 Nielsen Report showed that 72 percent of online streamers still listen to some form of radio.
And while announcers aren’t having to “cue up” records anymore, Winzenburg says the digital era has watered down the radio industry.
“Virtually anybody can have their own station,” Winzenburg says. “And I think that’s one of the problems today is that since people think anybody can do that, the attitude is that we don’t need a professional radio station in order to train students.”
For Winzenburg, the move to an online-only radio station is like Grand View University moving from NAIA in basketball to intramural only.
How to do technology
Radio hasn’t utilized technology to its fullest potential.
He tells students to be proficient at all aspects of communication, from social media to video storytelling.
“Radio needs a complete change of thinking in how they approach programming.”
But as young professionals turn into parents, Winzenburg says they go through changes in their listening habits as their lives become more stressful.
“Listening to a talk radio station as a relief,” Winzenburg says. “It’s difficult for me to see Grand View do away with real radio, because that’s the only real way we have to reach those teenagers and young adults, it’s when they are in their car. And without a station on the air, we can’t reach them in the car.”
Winzenburg said the communication department is trying to raise $8,000 to keep KDPS 88.1 on the air through the Spring semester.
To donate, click here.
The Iowa College Media Awards has named KDPS 88.1 station of the year for the last eight years.
Grand View University competes against Iowa State, Drake and Buena Vista Universities along with Simpson, Luther and Wartburg College for radio broadcast students.
Editors note: Joey Aguirre—the author of this story—graduated from Grand View University in 2009 and was a student of Mr. Winzenburg.