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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Student Disorientation Manual

On April 25th, Lets Take It To The Hill!
On April 25th, Let’s Take It To The Hill!

I got a secret. I know something that no other student on campus knows. . .

UMass Boston has a radio station.

I know, I was shocked too when I found out. I had heard rumors to the effect last semester at lunch, and this week I finally got so wired up about it that I went right to the web to find out something about this phantom of the airwaves.

It is called WUMB (see, it’s even named after UMass Boston!). It inhabits the Lower Level of Healey Library where its Morlock-like residents never see the sun.

This may explain why their DJs are mostly quite pale and why they spin nothing but a niche genre called “folk” that few people listen to anymore. Well, few people that go to UMass Boston anyway.

But that’s O.K. because WUMB claims (on one part of its website) to have over 100,000 listeners around eastern Massachusetts (although another part mentions 75,000 listeners). It says the listeners are highly educated, affluent consumers aged 35-54. This statement seems to be in code, but I think I’ve cracked it. I think that “highly educated affluent consumers aged 35-54” means middle-aged upper-middle class white people who live in the suburbs.

It was a bit tough to figure out since the demographic data on the WUMB website mentions that a survey (way back in 1998) looked at their listeners educational level, income, and age. Oh, and they also mentioned that a big 4.75% of their listeners were students (probably at other colleges, though). Yet some indicator seemed to be missing from the survey. Something basic I couldn’t quite put my finger on. . .

I tacked another appendage on it. Race was missing. For some strange reason, WUMB didn’t survey the race of its listeners. Why would it have anything to fear in the race department? I mean, gee whiz, WUMB has a “World Cafe” show on every weekday at 9 in the p.m. And sometimes they even play blues. And tunes from the other Americas. So that’s one diverse station alright. . .

Not really. Somehow a folkie sleeper-cell has taken over our campus radio station, and basically locked students out of the place, without getting shut down by the FCC for violation of its non-commercial educational license.

Of course, WUMB feels that it’s meeting the terms of its license just fine. Even while the vast majority of college radio stations in our region and around the country meet the terms of their non-commercial education license by having all their DJs be volunteer students and community members, this university’s radio station says the following: “WUMB radio’s primary business is public service radio programming. Public service programming demands that a significant audience be served by significant programming.”

It goes on, but you get the idea. It never mentions that educational radio stations are supposed to train people to run radio stations-to educate them, if you will. It also mentions that a significant audience needs to be served, but fails to point out that the significant audience served for a college radio station is generally supposed to be the college itself. And its surrounding area.

That’s really weird because the area surrounding UMB, last I heard was not filled with “highly educated affluent consumers aged 35-54.” In fact, the neighborhoods surrounding UMB are filled with non-affluent working-class people of all ages, and the two defining characteristics of a great number of those people are: a) they don’t listen to folk music, and b) they aren’t white. Many UMB students, by the same token, also meet those two demographic standards.

WUMB says that UMass Boston students participate in the station as part of the “Radio Learning Project”, a year long experiential learning program. And that there are some student employees. But that’s really not good enough for a station started by former UMB students that spent the period between 1968 and 1982 getting WUMB off the ground. For that, they are to be applauded. But allowing a campus resource in the public interest like a radio station to become the private preserve of a small group of professionals with limited tastes in music to the exclusion of its base community is unacceptable.

It would be worth some organizing on this campus to improve this situation. If anything gets going, keep me in the loop. . .