By Danielle Modica
University at Albany’s public radio station, WCDB-FM 90.9, is making some changes following serious challenges with growth due to university COVID-19 pandemic guidelines.
“We haven’t had any growth for over a year; at the start of the pandemic we were restricted to having only one person in the studio at a time,” WCDB General Manager and Treasurer Fiona Donovan said. “That limited what we could do.”
WCDB-FM, a call sign standing for the “Capital District’s Best,” has been the sound of UAlbany since 1978. With loosened rules this semester, the station is coming alive once again with goals to revamp everything from DJ training programs, gear, and promotions through community collaborations.
This year WCDB's annual Student Association budget of $22,000 went towards basic needs including various cables, adapters, CD shelving units, a new website server and microphone stands. The station also unveiled a new mixing board and on-air sign this semester, replacing decades-old equipment.
“There won’t be static while switching in-between songs anymore,” Donovan said. “We’re really excited for that.”
With the ability to fund a new website server, Donovan hopes to modernize the current site and attract new eyes to the station. The station also hopes to revive the official music blog, WCDB Airwaves, that focuses on local events, album reviews, interviews and song highlights.
“Our website is outdated and the last post on the blog is from March 2019,” Donovan said. “It’s kind of sad.”
An upcoming new addition to the website is podcasting, in which a designated room is being built in the station’s office space. The podcasts will not be broadcast through 90.9 FM due to Federal Communications Commission rules, but will be uploaded for streaming on the site.
“A lot of people have come in with some fun ideas for podcasts,” Donovan said. “We’re looking forward to that.”
As a public radio station, WCDB is also responsible for following the FCC guidelines and paying related fees.
“We have to do FCC licensing every four years,” Donovan said. “This year is a challenge because [for licensing] we need public inspection files that we don’t really have [due to the pandemic].”
Public Inspection Files, as defined by the FCC, is a file including “a variety of information about each station’s operations and service to its community of license” including a list of programs aired concerning important community issues. According to Donovan, the station has been unable to have their “social workers podcast” which would normally cover the FCC expectation.
“Our faculty advisor, Eric Hardiman [Professor at the School of Social Welfare] usually hosts our educational social workers podcast and brings on guests,” Donovan said. “During the pandemic we were unable to make new episodes which means we have to backfile shows to cover the inspection files.”
Besides the technical parts of WCDB’s functioning, the station prioritizes staying involved with the local music community. In previous years, WCDB staff worked with local bands through fall and spring semester showcases, collaborations with local skate shops, and in-studio performances.
After almost two years of not being able to host live music, the station welcomed local bands Hair, The E-Block, and Celsius and Safety Meeting to the Albany Barn for their Fall Showcase on November 5. The staff is currently planning the annual Battle of the Bands and Spring Showcase for the upcoming spring semester.
“[The station] is a place where people who like music and never felt like they fit in can have a home,” Donovan said. “It’s a lot quieter now, but when I joined the station was always full of people talking about music. It was cool to be immersed in that environment, and I’m trying to bring that culture back.”