Geneseo’s student-run radio station WGSU is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Monday Feb. 18 marked 50 years since WGSU was issued a Federal Communications Commission license, which permits the station to broadcast as a public rather than local radio station. The anniversary of its first official broadcast, however, is not until March.
According to WGSU Station Manager senior Laura Vitto, being an FCC-licensed college radio station is a significant recognition for WGSU. In order to maintain this license, she said, members must avoid using vulgar language while on the air and are not permitted to play music with explicit lyrics.
Vitto added that having this license for 50 years is evidence of students’ dedication to the radio station.
“It’s a privilege to have an FCC license,” Vitto said. “As DJs we are taught to respect that. I think the fact that WGSU is still going is a testament to the respect that DJs over the years have had for having an FCC-licensed radio station on campus.”
The radio station is affiliated with Geneseo’s department of communication, and receives no funding from the state. Each week, approximately 75 DJs play a variety of music genres alongside news segments and sports recaps.
According to Vitto, quality broadcasting has remained a priority of WGSU for decades.“DJs throughout Geneseo’s 50-year history … have definitely set a precedent for other DJs,” she said.
To mark the occasion, Vitto said that WGSU alumni have recorded congratulatory remarks that will be broadcast regularly throughout the next year. There are also tentative plans to record brief interviews with alumni about their time working for the radio station. WGSU also intends to host a marathon in which DJs will play music through the night to commemorate the anniversary. These plans will unfold over the course of the next two semesters.
This is not the first time that WGSU has planned celebrations for a major milestone. According to WGSU Faculty Director and alumnus Mike Saffran ‘85, the radio station hosted a number of events in 1984 to mark its 20th anniversary. Although the station celebrated a year late due to an oversight in the dates, WGSU hosted a marathon on Feb. 29, 1984 to commemorate the milestone.
“It was a huge on-air event,” Saffran said. “We knew this entire campus was listening to WGSU. We were doing giveaways in conjunction with [the anniversary] … the phone was ringing off the hook. People were calling in to win prizes or participate in phone contests.”
According to Saffran, there was a major blizzard going on throughout the 20th anniversary broadcast, but this did not deter students from walking to the radio station in order to win certain contests. A number of students had arrived at the radio station covered in snow in order to win small prizes.
“That was a little indication of the excitement, the buzz that we had created that night,” said Saffran. “We knew that it was a big deal and a huge success.”
Throughout his years as a student and faculty member at Geneseo, Saffran remained heavily involved with WGSU and he said that he encourages current students to think of innovative ways to keep their radio station on the air amidst competition from newer broadcasting mediums. He maintains that WGSU’s 50th anniversary is sill a major event.
“I would say, in terms of WGSU specifically, it’s the impact it had on the lives of so many students through the years [that makes the anniversary significant] … I have a fuller appreciation now of the impact – the relevance – that working for the station had for so many people for so many years,” Saffran said.