Freedom on the airwaves: UNC's fearless student radio

Oct. 31, 2010 5:51 pm

In any given hour, a WXYC listener may hear a plethora of rare music in the world’s most obscure genres. These include Afro-Beat, Noise, Drone, Dubstep, and even Hyphy (a ‘hyperactive’ rap style created in the San Francisco Bay area).

The station’s unrelenting drive to create a musical landscape unlike anything else on the radio has earned them accolades around the globe, including a recent nod from “Paste Magazine,” who named them one of the “Top 40 Best Little Radio Stations in the US.” In addition, XYC was the first radio station to be broadcast over the internet, starting in 1994.  This bit of trivia earned the station a spot in a Jeopardy! question.

WXYC was launched in the 1970s at WCAR, a previous UNC student station that broadcast from the basement of Morrison Dormitory. Now housed in the Student Union, the station boasts a broadcasting control room, a recording production room and a library with over 70,000 records and CDs. This vast collection allows them to broadcast almost exclusively from vinyl and CD, a contrast to the majority of digitally broadcasting college stations. WXYC adds to its collection weekly, receiving the best the world has to offer in cutting-edge music.

“The mission of WXYC is to provide listeners with educational programming,” says station manager Nicole Campbell, “connecting seemingly disparate genres of music and making it seem cohesive.” She says the station strives to expose listeners to music they normally wouldn’t hear.

While most college stations broadcast music suggested by the College Music Journal, WXYC is completely independent. They allow each DJ to broadcast under a ‘free-format radio’ model, meaning that DJs can play music of their choice with minimal interference. The only programming guideline the station imposes is that DJs must play five songs from a rotation of new releases each hour. A live DJ is on the air at all times.

Campbell believes that radio may be a dying art form, gradually being phased out by blogs and internet radio. Still, she thinks radio is a valuable medium.

“It’s is more of an impressionistic experience,” she said. “It’s all up to the DJ what you’re going to hear. It may be uncomfortable or not as convenient, but you’re going to hear so much more stuff.”

Drew Millard is a freelancer for reesenews.