WIUP radio turns 50

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of WIUP-FM were, from left, program director Liam Noble, station manager Emily Loose and faculty adviser Dr. Zack Stiegler. The Indiana University of Pennsylvania station signed on in 1969 on 91.3 megahertz and moved in 1980 to its present position of 90.1 megahertz on the FM dial.

The chair of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Communications Media recently was looking at the school’s Wikipedia page — and then a resident broadcast historian at the department’s WIUP-FM 90.1 realized something there.

“You know, the first day you broadcast was Oct. 9, 1969,” the historian told Dr. Zach Stiegler, faculty adviser to the station.

That was on Monday — two days before the 50th anniversary for the student-run station, whose effective radiated power of 1,600 watts carries its signal to most of Indiana County.

“WIUP is a federally licensed, student-run station that serves both the IUP community and the Indiana community at large,” Stiegler said. “It serves as a hands-on classroom. It gives them some pretty real-world experience (as) we strive to provide programming that you might not get elsewhere on the dial.”

It is one of two IUP broadcast operations. The other is WIUP-TV, a 24-hour cable access station available on Channel 6 on the Indiana-area Comcast system.

Stiegler said a lot of students work for both FM 90.1 and WIUP-TV, but “there is no formal relationship” between the two.

WIUP started out in Davis Hall with 23 undergraduate volunteers, broadcasting Monday through Friday

between 4 and 11:10 p.m., as The Indiana Gazette reported on Oct. 10, 1969. Its first remote broadcast was that same day, the inauguration of Dr. William W. Hassler as IUP president.

Today WIUP operates from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. to midnight Saturday then 7 a.m. through an “All Night Caf←” from 1 to 7 a.m. early Monday. During holiday breaks “Caf←” runs from 1 to 9 a.m.

Much of the programming originates from studios that today are in Stouffer Hall, but syndicated fare fills the 7-8 a.m. hour on weekdays, including “The Allegheny Front,” an environmental news magazine originating at WYEP on Mondays.

There also is Sierra Club Radio and Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting’s “CounterSpin” on Tuesdays; WAMC/Northeast Public Radio’s “Media Project” and Commonwealth Club of California on Wednesday; Northeast Public Radio’s “51 Percent” and “TBOK” on Thursdays; and “Big Picture Science” on Fridays.

There also is the nationally circulated “Democracy Now!” news hour at 5 p.m. weekdays; and “The Saturday Light Brigade,” a family-oriented program produced at Carnegie Mellon’s WRCT-88.3 and carried weekly on a network of public stations. WIUP clears the 6 to 9 a.m. segment.

Stiegler said the staff includes “30 to 35 students” and “15-ish non-students,” including current and retired faculty and staff and some area residents.

“Weekends and student breaks are staffed by community volunteers,” he said.

WIUP still does remotes today, including all home and some away action for IUP football and men’s and women’s basketball. A WIUP crew will cover today’s IUP-Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania football game from Slippery Rock, with coverage beginning at 2 p.m.

Stiegler said sports gives those learning radio “a very different experience” than if they’re doing a music or talk show.

There also is a week of remote broadcasts “typically sometime in April when the weather is a little more reliable,” Stiegler said. The broadcasts can happen on different sites on campus, such as the Oak Grove or the Hadley Union Building, for four to six hours apiece.

As one could imagine, given the short notice, there wasn’t much of a birthday celebration Wednesday, though there was time for station manager Emily Loose to bring a cake to the FM 90.1 management meeting.

And for the anniversary to get notice among IUP/WIUP-FM alumni.

“Always keep your mind open to learning new things,” WPOC-93.1 Baltimore disc jockey Bob Del Pizzo, also known by his air name of Bob Delmont, shared on the WIUP-FM Facebook page Wednesday afternoon. “Today I learned my college radio station where I got my start turns 50 today. I had no idea we were the same age.”

Del Pizzo displayed a “circa 1988 yellow board” in the main studio, showing him when “we played records” and he shared the booth with then-faculty adviser Wilson.

“This was absolutely some of the best times of my life,” he posted.

Another predecessor to Stiegler as WIUP faculty adviser was the late Jim Rogers, who was honored earlier this year by the Northern Appalachian Folk Festival Inc. with a place on its Walk of Fame. Rogers was a volunteer at WIUP for over 30 years, primarily airing Saturday and Sunday programs which highlighted singer-song writers, folk music and bluegrass.

“He was a lifelong broadcaster, very much into that field,” Stiegler said. “He sort of revised the schedule after WYEP in Pittsburgh.”

In turn, with Stiegler providing oversight, Loose and Liam Noble are the day-to-day management.

The first FCC license for WIUP-91.3 covered a three-year period. The most recent renewal for WIUP-90.1 came in 2014 and expires in 2022.

Mark Kloszewski, community volunteer coordinator, wears a different hat off campus, as traffic and promotion assistant manager for Renda Broadcasting in Indiana. He’s not the only connection to the four commercial stations in downtown Indiana.

“(Renda Operations Director) Jim DeCesare has taken a lot of our students as interns, and some have moved on to jobs with Renda,” Stiegler said. “There have been some minor tensions over the years, but overall they have been pretty warm to us.”

WIUP is funded primarily through the Student Cooperative Association at IUP. Stiegler said funding comes from what students pay in activity fees.

“It has been decreasing every year,” the faculty adviser said. “When I started (in 2009) we were getting somewhere around $10,000 or $11,000 per year, now it’s $7,000 or $8,000.”

The station may need to reach out for other funding “occasionally in an emergency situation,” recalling how the station transmitter burned out during his first year.

“We have done some underwriting in the past, but those are more of a barter situation,” Steigler said, such as when restaurants provide certificates to give away on the air.

Local programs include “Morning Mix;” “The Fusion” during middays; “Afternoon Archives” of music from the 1950s through 1990s; “Median Mix” from 2 to 4 p.m.; “Sports Talk Live,” “Progressions;” “Local Limelights” on Wednesdays from 9 to 10 p.m., “The Underground” late night with hip hop and rhythm and blues; and “Smash Alley” after midnight, offering hardcore, punk and metal.

During the day, disc jockeys “are welcome to follow a particular format should they desire, so long as it follows FCC guidelines regarding indecency and obscenity,” according to the WIUP manual.