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December 01, 1981 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-12-01

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Page 8-Tuesday, December 1, 1981-The Michigan Daily
WCBN:

Is

anybody

listening?

uDaiy r
Alan Winnacker and Stanley Pollack: Ready to help with anything
in your Wheaties to housing troubles on 'Radio Free Lawyer.'

noto by MAUL 4
from flies

(Continued from Page 1)
"My idea of CBN is the idea of
freeform. At most college stations, it's
"pulling records off the wall, or playing
your favorites. But.here the idea is to
show the relationships between types of
music that you usually classify
separately."
Freeforrn radio is like an entire spec-
trum of music on one frequepcy; it is a
musical education for listeners and the
CBN staff alike. It's looking at where a
piece of music came from-what other
music influenced it. "You can go, for
example, from a bluegrass piece with a
lot of mandolin to a Vivaldi mandolin
concerto, and it works," Freedman ex-

listeners have. After playing "My Boy
Lollipop" (It's a novelty," she tells the
people eyeing her quizically in the
studio) and "Goody Goody Gum
Drops" ("What do you expect from
me?" she asks, laughing hysterically),
then a little new wave followed by
reggae, she decides on "Bernadette"
by the Four Tops. "I didn't even know
what Motown was until I came to
CBN," shesays with a hint of "how in-
credible" in her voice.
And where do you go from Motown?
"I don't know," Regina says without
concern when the song is nearly over.
Well, how about a rockabilly cover of
"You Can't Hurry Love." Myer, who
has been at CBN for a year, spins
around to Mike Kopka, a more
seasoned veteran, and questions sar-
castically, "Is this freeform enough for
you?"
She's totally at ease while the music
is on, tensing up only slightly for the
segues (transitions between sets). But

this is the first time she's done a show
that's followed by the news, and about
15 minutes before the end a question
strikes her: "How do I get my music to
stop exactly at 5:30?"
Most of the people at CBN say they
don't have any particular audience in
mind when they're doing their shows.
"Who listens to us?" Freedman thinks
for a minute. "We don't know.
Sometimes we feel like nobody listens."
But the phone calls tell them, and the
annual fundraiser proves to them that
there are people out there listening.
Program Director Saxe says he thinks
the station gets most of its exposure in
businesses devoted to playing CBN's
music. And, as far as aiming at any
audience in particular, the disc jockeys
simply don't do it; they say they play
for people who want to listen. "In my
opinion, many members of the public
have pretty crappy tastes," says
General Manager Lisansky. "One of
our purposes is not to follow the public
taste, but to lead it."
So, Freedman says, there are the let-
ters that ask "Why do you always have
to be so fucking esoteric? Why can't you
just play good music for a few hours?"
On the other hand, you have listeners
like LSA senior Tim Murdoch. "I'll
have to admit, I probably wouldn't like
a lot of music I like now if it hadn't been
for CBN. Sometimes the tastes get a lit-
tle bizarre for my liking, but I guess
that's what you'd expect."
B UT NO STATION-not even CBN
-can exist on freeform
programming alone. If it did, it would
be as predictable (in its own strange
way) as a top 40 station. The people
working in the windowless studios deep
in the basement of the Student Ac-
tivities Building are aware of this, and
they have an impressive array of hour-
long specialty programs to fill out their
format.
There are shows featuring R&B,
Duke Ellington, rockabilly, soul,
reggae, folk, bluegrass, dance music,

gospel tunes, synthesized sound, local
music, and classical pieces, among
others. The specialty programs are, in
a way, like magnifications of individual
particles of a freeform show.
Some of the specialty shows are focal
points of a considerable controversy
stirring between the University and the
station. The University sees CBN's fun-
ction as that of a learning laboratory,
according to Chris Carlson, a con-
sultant in the Student Organizations,
Activities, and Programs office.
"The number one priority is to
provide a learning experience," says
Carlson, CBN's primary link to the
University administration. "The num-
ber two priority is to have' quality
programming." The administration
considers the presence of non-students
at the station a block in the learning
process-they are doing jobs which
students should be doing. This is where
the controversy-Carlson says it is
"one of the burning issues this
year"-comes in.
Many of the specialty shows are
hosted by non-students who are experts
in a given area. Lisansky says he has
been feeling pressure to get those non-
students off the air. But, he says, they
provide expertise-and record collec-
tions-that few students could begin to
rival. The result? CBN staff people say
they think it improves service to the
listeners, while students at the station
continue to gain radio experience
through producing the shows.
Dave Crippen, a non-student nearly 60
years old and an expert on swing music,
has worked at CBN since 1974 without
pay. "Each succeeding (station)
manager has encouraged me to stay
on," says the announcer for the popular
Duke Ellington show. "And I've loved
every minute of it."
A possible solution to the non-
student controversy, Carlson says, is to
hire a paid, three-quarter-time
general manager to provide some kind
of guidance and expertise. Overall, she
says she agrees with Program Director
Saxe: University-CBN relations have
been more positive lately than in the
past.
Last January, a complaint against
the station filed with the Federal Com-
munications Commission grabbed the
attention of the administration. The
complaint charged that the station has
maintained an illegal relationship with
Eclipse Jazz by providing free
promotions; that disc jockeys have
repeatedly broadcast obscene
material; that the station illegally
broadcast news from the ABC news
line; and that WCBN announcers have
not always been properly licensed.
The incident wore heavily on Freed-
man, who was program director at the
time. He describes the complaint as a
"demoralizing" action taken by people
within the Campus Broadcasting Net-
work who didn't like what the station
was doing. They "vandalized (the of-
fices) and finally went to the FCC with
half-truths and outright, lies," Freed-
man says. The FCC acquitted CBN but
the incident forced the University to
acknowledge that it has a student radio
station somewhere in the basement of
one of its buildings. It pointed out,
Freedman says wearily, that "we need
their help."
Since then, CBN's board of directors
has been revised so that, instead of
being made up entirely of students,
there will be five students, one faculty
member, one alumnus (all elected by
staff), and two administration-appoin-
ted representatives. "The intention is
still not to be in control, but to be in con-
tact with them," Carlson says. "The

basic thing we've done is to pay more
attention to their accounting situation."
M ONEY IS a growing problem
for CBN now, as it is for most
University organizations. And, as disc
jockey and AM Program Director Joe
Tibone points out, "With whole depar-
tments curling up and dying around
here, there's not much chance CBN will
get more."
The station receives $9,000 for part-
time salaries (Lisansky, for instance, is
a one-quarter-time employee, working
for minimum wage), and $11,000 for
operating expenses from the Univer-
sity's General Fund through the Office
of Student Services. CBN also holds a
major fundraiser each year (last year's
brought in more than $8,000), but this is
not enough for the station to accomplish
all that it wants to do.
"Broadcasting local music festivals
costs a lot of money," Lisansky ex-
plains. "To me, that's the kind of stuff
radio should be doing." But it's a
struggle to keep the station on the air.
"We're trying to work with smaller but
better, too," Lisansky explains. "We've
cut our AP (news wire), but we're
hoping that will cause us to do great
local news.
"We've got a long way to go, but
we're trying," says News Director
Mary Wood. The news broadcasts serve
both CBN and WJJX-AM (see box)
Monday through Friday with five-
minute broadcasts twice each day and
the half-hour "5:30 Report."
"We've had to focus more on local
happenings in Ann Arbor, doing more
phone stories and sending reporters
out," Wood says shortly before air,
time. "We're trying to work it out for.

students to get credit. You learn a lot.
There's more experience doing real
journalism rather than ripping and
reading AP."
Already there is increasing emphasis
on the special-issues programming on
topics such as labor, women's affairs,
tenants' rights, and the environment.
One of the newer shows, "Radio Free
Lawyer," is a phone-in program hosted
by second-year law student Alan Win-
nacker and lawyer Stanley Pollack.
"Although we do get some odd
ones-last week a guy called up, had a
lot of flies in his Wheaties-about half of
them are about landlord-tenant
problems," Winnacker says.
The show's major problem, he says,
is that not too many people call. "We
have three theories about this," he
says. "One, that people don't have
problems. Two, people have problems
and don't want to talk about them. And
three, they aren't listening at all."
But "Radio Free Lawyer" is trying to
provide an'alternative service, right in
line with the station's philosophy.
And, if the people at CBN have their
way, they'll soon be able to do that for
people who are outside of their half-
mile broadcast radius. The FCC last
year promised to hand down a decision
on a power increase some time this fall.
The hold-up has been a little problem
down on CBN's end of the dial: A power
increase to spread the gospel freeform
would run into interference with
television Channel 6 air waves.
The folks at CBN are waiting as
patiently as can be expected for the
FCC to come up with a solution. It just
wouldn't do for small children to tune in
to Captain Kangaroo some morning
only to find the Dancing Bear jamming
to a cricket concerto.

0
0

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Daily Photo by PAUL ENGSTROM

Charlie Saxe, WCBN program director.

m

9' __________________________,.___

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