I had the privilege of starting my communications career at age 11.
That’s because I had the exceptionally good fortune to grow up in a community that funded a radio station, put it inside of a school, staffed it primarily with students and made it accessible. By the time I got to college, I had seven years of experience on the air but also invaluable leadership and teamwork lessons learned behind the scenes. This adventure began more than 30 years ago and it’s reassuring to know it will continue long into the future.
This weekend, I had the honor to speak at the dedication of spectacular new studios for WBFH-FM in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The people who make decisions about the area where I grew up, which is not too far away from where I live now, have decided to invest in the future of community broadcasting. When the school district decided to merge two high schools into one, leaders determined that WBFH should be the physical centerpiece of the new school, to ensure its relevance, vibrancy and accessibility well into the future.
I remarked during the dedication ceremony how energizing it is to see a long-term commitment made to local media. In today’s environment where, for better or for worse, large public corporations own media outlets, decisions are made about meeting financial targets quarter-to-quarter. Decisions about “the future” often mean next year. Cuts and “more with less” rule the day in ways that audiences are having a hard time understanding.
WBFH will turn 40 years old in October. During the dedication ceremony, community leaders spoke of “the next 40 years” for the station. That kind of talk is unheard of as commercial media faces an uncertain future. I remarked, tongue slightly in cheek, that “Leaders here seem to care more about the future of broadcasting than the corporations that are in the business of broadcasting.” That is not to suggest public companies should abandon commitments to shareholders to make capital investments. But it sure is refreshing to see broadcasting, which is now happening over an app and not just via a tower, embraced by a community that understands its value to education as well as quality of life.
The Biff and high school radio stations all over the United States came together for one day of celebration April 20th when the 5th Annual High School Radio Day continued as an annual event. Since there are so few high schools with radio stations, High School Radio Day (HSRD) raises a greater awareness of the ones that are still broadcasting over the air and newer ones that are streaming online.
A website has been created to publicize the activities planned by participating stations on April 20th: www.highschoolradioday.com. Schools can register their stations on that site. Also on the site are links to participating high schools with links to their websites and online streams of their programming; notable high school radio grads; links to other high school stations nationwide; and a resource page with information pertinent to high school broadcasters.
High School Radio Day was created after College Radio Day launched in 2011. Though College Radio Day did allow high school stations to register, organizers felt that high school stations should have their own day. High School Radio Day Founder Pete Bowers (General Manager, WBFH-FM, Bloomfield Hills, MI) scheduled the first HSRD in May 2012.
Bowers estimates that there are only about 200 high schools in the nation with either a terrestrial over-the-air non-commercial, educational radio station or an internet-only or online radio station. “The number of terrestrial stations is dropping but the number of online stations is increasing with some of those applying for LPFM construction permits,” said Bowers. “That’s why we need to unite on High School Radio Day and make the public aware of what we do, how we do it, and the service we provide our communities,” he said.
Bowers is thrilled that High School Radio Day has become an annual event. There currently are 76 stations from 30 states participating, up from 31 schools from 16 states the first year. Students and advisors at those stations reached out to potential listeners in their broadcast area and online encouraging them to listen and be prepared to hear creative programming not heard on college and commercial radio stations.
Follow HSRD on Twitter (@HSRadioDay), Facebook (search High School Radio Day) and Instagram. Download the High School Radio app from Google Play. For more information about HSRD, contact Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (248) 341-5695.