Taking the Pulse

Student-run radio faces future without funds


College radio ain't what it used to be. Back in the day, the term referred more to the type of music campus stations played than the geographical location from whence it came. As more and more stations began filling the available spots on the dial and pandering to advertisers who wanted their 30-second spots sandwiched between Top 40 hits, college radio became even more important to people looking for an alternative to new country and pablum pop.

Listeners in a small college town like Boise turned to their university-based student-run radio stations, like University Pulse, for exposure to new sounds, discovering the likes of hip-hop, grunge, alt-rock and more.

Until last semester, funding for University Pulse came by way of student allocated funds. Around $2 from each student's fees went directly into the station's coffers, providing for a roughly $50,000 budget each year. The 12 hours that they are on the air each week--Sundays from noon to midnight--come courtesy of Boise State Radio. Effective this fiscal year, the 12 hours are still there, but the budget to program them no longer exists.

So what do we do in this town when someone needs a financial helping hand? We hold a benefit, which is exactly what 24-year-old University Pulse General Manager Jesse Splan, Boise State employee Jaclyn Brandt--who also used to work at Journal Broadcast Group and who helps book shows at the Venue--the Knitting Factory and local bands ATTN, Apple Horse, We Won the Science Fair, Le Fleur and The Invasion will do on Friday, Sept. 11. They hope to show the university and the public at large that what University Pulse does is a vital part of college town culture--and raise some funds for the station.

As with so many things, the advent of widespread Internet use changed college radio, something University Pulse--which functions under the umbrella of the Boise State radio network--was not immune to. But it adapted.

On the terrestrial dial, University Pulse programs can be heard on AM 730 in Boise, AM 1450 in Twin Falls and AM 89.9 in McCall. Keeping in step with radio of the 21st century, the station is also streamed 24/7 into the Boise State Student Union Building and Student Rec Center.

Boise State Radio still provides University Pulse with that 12-hour block of program time on Sundays, a vital component of the station's success.

"I don't think they'll take [that time] away from us," Splan said.

But without any funding, those 12 on-air hours are going to be hard to fill. In a bid to help keep University Pulse playing, they joined with The Arbiter, the university's newspaper, and folded into their recently created entity: The Student Media Group.

"When The Arbiter moved from [print] newspaper to online, and then added a TV channel on the Internet site--we joined with The Arbiter, which was my choice, and the choice of the people in the organization [University Pulse] at the current time," Splan said. "By doing that, we hope it won't be The Arbiter and The Pulse but the Student Media Group.

Though the majority of student DJs involved in University Pulse have only online programs, for 25-year-old communications/computer science student Taylor Bell, whose program "The Boat Show" airs at 3:30 p.m., his time on University Pulse has been a big part of his college experience. It's also been a way for him to do something he loves: share music with people.

"I've been doing it for about a year and a half, but I was interested in the station for awhile before that," Bell said.

Bell's "Boat Show" is comprised mainly of funk, soul and instrumental hip-hop.

"There wasn't anything on the station like that [when I started] so it worked out really well," he said. "I had wanted to do radio for a long time."

It's stories like Bell's that ring especially true for Jaclyn Brandt.

Brandt has long been a strong supporter of radio in general and believes that something vital to the community would be lost if college radio disappeared.

"I think student radio is the next generation of radio," Brandt said. "It's the only real way [radio] people are getting trained these days."

With a staff of only two--due in part to the loss of funding and in part to the summer break--Brandt has been volunteering at University Pulse recently. She knew that a benefit might help alleviate some of the pressure on the station.

"We wanted to do something, and the Knitting Factory offered their space," she said. "And because of what I do, I know the bands in town that will sell tickets and are really good at that ... And we wanted an eclectic mix."

Friday, Sept. 11, with ATTN, Apple Horse, We Won the Science Fair, Le Fleur and The Invasion, 7 p.m., $7. Knitting Factory, 416 S. Ninth St., 208-367-1212,