WRPN-Radio goes digital

Ripon College’s radio station WRPN-FM went off the air for the last time at 5 pm on September 15. Though the FM license was cancelled, WRPN members look to the future of the organization, with the hope of digitalizing the station and involving more students than ever before. Station Manager Mason Sanchez ’17 said the decision from switching from over-the-air broadcasting to online services was discussed, “for a couple of years now, but [we] were so busy and understaffed that we were not able to go through with it until this year.”

General Manager Anthony Tausig ’15 confirms this, saying executive staff members, including both Sanchez and himself, regularly work over 40 hours a week and are currently in the midst of transitioning to digital broadcasting.

As a Senate-recognized, student-run organization, this work is completely voluntary. Consequently, last year’s staff had a mere “four Executive Staff members,” says Sanchez. “We were fortunate enough this year to have had more people interested in the workings of WRPN.”

One such advocate is their new advisor, Assistant Professor of Religion David William Scott. Scott and Tausig have experience working together as Tausig had an internship with Habitat for Humanity through the Center for Social Responsibility last year, where Scott is a fellow. When Tausig asked Scott to take on the role, Scott was more than willing, “I’d worked with Anthony before on projects related to Habitat for Humanity and had a great experience collaborating with him.”

In addition to this experience, Scott’s father ran the radio station KDEC/ KRDI in Decorah, Iowa, and Scott had “spent a lot of time at the station” as a child. “I never worked for the station myself,” though he is excited to see what the students will implement. The main reasons for the switch from FM broadcasting to online streaming were due to old equipment. Some of these outdated materials, such as a sound board, dating back to the 70s. WRPN is currently in the midst of renovating the materials and location itself, as its spot in Harwood Memorial Lawn is unknown to some members of the community.

WRPN purchased a new monitor, sound board, and record player, but classic influences still remain. “We’re going through our vinyl records to keep the best of it. “We can play records online,” says Sanchez. “We’re going forward but still hold to past influences.”

When deciding to transition, Tausig and the other executive staff members met with Melissa Bemus, Dean Ogle, and the Plant Department to discuss their intentions, and according to Tausig, Ogle and Bemus expressed concerns about the Federal Communications Commission and how to legally protect the College during the transition.

Without the FM license, the FCC can sell the label to another party. Though this cancellation, along with a membership termination in the WI Broadcasting Association may limit public broadcasting, Tausig believes this better protects WRPN. “FCC was always a watchful entity that could easily fine us,” Tausig says.

This endeavor protected the organization and also provided redemption funds. As Tausig says, the combined cost of the station, along with local competition, made broadcasting unique content difficult.

“After a lot of debating and arguing within our group, we finally came to an agreement that if we switched we would have the money to update the station,” he says. “We really needed [modern] technology and equipment.”

“We want to encourage more people to see what’s going on with the physical location,” Sanchez adds. “We’re updating the office space to make everything look
great, such as new paint and carpeting.”

WRPN members are currently selling and throwing away their old materials, including the old sound board, computer monitor, transmitter, and the tower and antennas.

If sold, the combined financial gain is upwards of $10,000, which can then be given back to Student Senate. As equipment continues to be updated, the value declines. Tausig hopes this transition to solely digital broadcasting will support a modernized and reorganized media presence for both WRPN and Ripon College at large.

“We are in the process of making a new website so listeners can listen off their computer and wireless device,” says Tausig.

This isn’t the first time WRPN has streamed online, but Tausig believes this new system will engage more people with different positions within radio, and these experiences can cumulate into careers.

“We are interested in lighting, sound, and technical aspects of radio,” says Tausig. “[We will be] going to radio conventions, as well as music conventions.”

“Everyone can support the station by listening,” Scott says. “Current students can also offer to run a radio show. There’s been a lot of interest this year, which is great, but we can always use more programming.”

Though broadcasting through WRPN dates back to 1961, Tausig hopes alumni and families can look to the future, but he understands how this may stress some individuals. WRPN’s transition reflects a greater social trend in how music is presented in the ever-changing world of communication. Updates in technology allow music to be more accessible than ever before, through Smartphones and Youtube platforms.

Tausig hopes to integrate WRPN’s content onto aps so listeners “can click on it and literally start listening off of their cell phone iPod or MP3.” WRPN is thriving member-wise, with 25 students hosting shows and/or leading its development. “The role of WRPN will still be the same as it always has been,” says Tausig.

“People can still DJ and do their shows.” Sanchez, who has worked in radio for six years, is happy to see a variety of interests in DJs and listeners. “Some [DJS] play Top 40 hits, while others play rock n roll and country,” he says. “I have my own radio show now, and I play music that dates back to the 20s until now.”

Tausig feels “blessed” to have such an active leadership role. He began assisting the organization two years ago, and favors disc-jocking. “I love the feeling of being on stage and having everyone’s attention and people moving to music, people listening to us and knowing us.”

Despite the difficulties and inquiries from current and past students alike, Tausig remains positive. “[WRPN’s presence] is a good form of attention. It’s attention that is developed and made from hard work, and that’s the ultimate payment and reward for us.”