Possible changes for WBUL

USF’s student-run radio station, WBUL 1620 AM, and Student Government are negotiating with the community radio station WMNF 88.5 FM to simultaneously broadcast on the station’s HD2 digital subchannel.

WBUL Station Manager Michael Ranon said the station will still broadcast on 1620 AM and online. However, once the contract with WMNF is finalized, the HD2 subchannel will become the station’s main frequency, while 1620 AM will be a secondary frequency.

Ranon said the three-year contract between WBUL and WMNF will cost $35,000 per year, with SG paying $30,000 of it with Activity and Services fees.

WBUL will pay the remaining $5,000 with the station’s revenue, Ranon said.

WBUL will likely change its call letters once the station begins broadcasting in HD,
he said.

“There is an FM station in Kentucky that also uses the call letters WBUL,” Ranon said. “So there would potentially be a legal dispute with Clear Channel radio stations.”

Ranon said that even though the call letters will likely change to WXBL, the station will probably operate under the name “Bulls Radio” on both frequencies.

SG Director for Department of Student Services Ralph Reid said broadcasting in HD will allow USF’s satellite campuses to hear the radio station.

“The big benefit will be the fact that HD signal goes a lot farther,” Reid said. “So we’ll actually just branch out more into the community.”

Reid said anyone who has an HD radio within the tri-county area should be able to hear WBUL.

1620 AM only broadcasts to USF and its immediate surroundings, Ranon said.

Ranon said the contract will probably also include training, internships and access to the WMNF studio for WBUL employees.

Part of the contract negotiations could also include the installation of listening stations on campus, he said. The stations, which would be funded by WMNF, would have either headphones or speakers where students could listen to the HD broadcast.

Ranon said locations for the listening stations have not been chosen because they are still in the planning stages.

“We’re working with WMNF to make sure that with the HD switch, it will actually be heard,” Reid said. “We want to make sure the students and community are aware of it.”

Ranon said the contract will likely be finalized within the next two weeks. At the end of each year, the contract could be ended.

HD radio broadcasting is subscription-free, but Ranon said students will have to purchase new receivers to hear the WMNF HD2 subchannel.

WBUL, which began broadcasting in 1988, is an agency funded by SG.

For the 2009-10 school year, WBUL was allocated $108,521.05, Reid said. The station was allocated $136,898.39 last year.

“Decreases happened across the board to all of Student Affairs,” he said. “Budgeting was done differently this year because basically we didn’t have a lot of cash on hand like we had in the past, so we only budgeted what was coming in – we didn’t want to overextend our budget.”

Reid said the allocations are based on organizations’ requests.

He said the funding WUSF received will be used for paying student employees,
equipment for the station, operating expenses and other projects such as tailgating parties and concerts.