Story by Hannah Adams / Contributing Writer
In 1969, the radio station WMOT came into being within the confines of Middle Tennessee State University. What started out as student radio, however, quickly turned toward more professional horizons. Although this was great news for cities such as Nashville, it did leave a hole for the students left yearning for their own voice to be heard.
Because of their desire to broadcast their generation’s taste in music or programs, they set off to earn their own radio station.
It took several decades, four attempts and a body of students for the school to, finally, authorize a student-run station. In March 1992, they officially took off under the name WNAR, for We Need A Radio. Their first broadcast was on cable TV, Channel 38. From there, they just had to keep things going smoothly from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Their breakthrough ended up being more than just staying on air for a few late hours, however.
That fall, they were able to switch over to Channel 8, and in the summer of 1995, received their associated station number 88.3, along with the call letters WMTS, after it was donated by an entity that now goes by WAPB. Construction began for their own tower and space of use after they gained in popularity.
Now, almost 26 years later, WMTS is as thriving as ever.
As a public radio station, they are community and listener supported with no advertising. They only do underwriting.
“Underwriting is a form of, basically, really politically correct advertising,” said Melissa Summit, former assistant station manager and current concert director.“We would ask these businesses to donate to us, and then in exchange for their donation, we will publicly thank them on the air while also describing the services they provide.”
They are on air for 14 to 16 hours daily, operate 63 shows of different genres and employ roughly the same amount of DJs. In fact, their average semester consists of at least 25 new DJs, sometimes more. Currently, the station is managed by senior Anthony Williams, with assistant manager Lacey Pate being groomed to one day take over.
Each term for a student in a leadership position typically takes place August through May. If a student in the station were to graduate in December, they would still be able to hold their position until their term was up, if they so choose.
The students work at the station – whether as DJs, interns or in leadership positions – as well as going to classes. They are doing everything that all their peers are working toward, plus a little extra. Even when they are home, they remain on their toes for updates and emails.
Although the work might be hard, the effort certainly pays off.
“It is a great experience for people who want to be in the music business, journalism business or want to be in radio at all,” said Val Hoeppner, director for the Center of Innovation and Media and executive director of WMOT Roots Radio. “And that’s the whole purpose that it exists, and it gives students a voice on campus … It maintains its relevance as long as there’s a platform for discovery.”
What does the future hold for WMTS?
In the next year, the school hopes to expand the station by giving them their own HD channel. This would open up their airwaves to reach listeners as far as WMOT is able to. Only, for them, it would have a younger audience, as Nashville colleges no longer have a student radio since Vanderbilt left.
“They’re ready for that challenge,” Hoeppner added confidently.
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