WFCR Radio Station

Title

WFCR Radio Station

Subject

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Description

Founded in 1961, WFCR has played a vital role in circulating news throughout the Pioneer Valley. Initially located within the Springfield Trade School in Springfield, Massachusetts, WFCR first moved to UMass Amherst in 1967 after the school's Board of Trustees allotted the station space on the second floor of the Hampshire House. Despite being located within a bland building, WFCR has made a monumental impact on the radio airwaves. Though WFCR still operates from Hampshire House, the station’s time at UMass is drawing to a close.

The Hampshire House is located on the Southwestern wing of the UMass campus. A five story building, the Hampshire House was quickly built following the influx of students after WWII. Because of this, the building is very simple. Made of concrete blocks, the Hampshire House has metal door entrances on the north and south ends of the building. The east and west sides of the building are covered in a beige mortar and undecorated windows. Prior to WFCR’s occupation, the Hampshire House was primarily used for housing ROTC students. The entrance to the WFCR studio is located on Massachusetts Avenue, and the studio is still on the second floor. Today, the building is filled with offices of UMass faculty.

After arriving on the UMass campus, WFCR aimed to include the Four College Community (at the time Hampshire College was not part of the now Five College Consortium) within its radio broadcasts. Upon this integration, WFCR rapidly expanded their airtime to seventeen hours a day, and broadened their listening audience as a result. A key reason for this increase in listenership was Gilbert Mollata. Mollata, developed the first radio classroom lecture series titled, The Four College Lecture Hall, where professors from the local colleges would discuss their disciplines on air. Scholars from around the world would come into the WFCR studios to share their findings with Western Massachusetts listeners.

Since 1961, the radio equipment used at WFCR has changed dramatically. At the station’s inception, WFCR only had a 10-watt transmitting site, operating thirty-six hours a week; by 1964, WFCR aired 119 hours of material per week. In the early 1960s, radio equipment was larger and less efficient than it is today. The most common radio mixer was the 1A mixer, which was made of four large transmitters. This equipment was stored in the producer’s room, overlooking the on-air studio through a clear glass window. Archival pictures from 1970 show the on-air studio consisting of a round table with microphones on it. Popular microphones from the mid 1960s included the electret microphone and later in 1970, the dynamic microphone. Patented in 1962, Bell Laboratory’s electret microphone eliminated the need for a “polarizing power supply by using a permanently charged material.” In other words, these electret microphones were built to last for years. They were replaced by the dynamic microphone, which was invented in the 1970s. The dynamic microphones were needed because lower frequencies were not picked up clearly by electret microphones.

Following the passing of the Public Broadcasting Act by President Johnson in 1970, WFCR became affiliated with National Public Radio (NPR). Further, after adding a satellite in 1979, WFCR expanded its listenership to radios across Western New England. Today WFCR caters to over one hundred thousand listeners weekly, and it is all being broadcasted from within the small office within Hampshire House on the UMass Amherst Campus.

In 2011, WFCR announced that beginning in 2013, radio shows would begin broadcasting from the first floor of the Fuller Block Building on Main Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. Many Springfield business associations were pleased with the decision because WFCR could uplift the depressed streets of the City of Homes. WFCR’s future move was due in large part to the Hampshire House’s cramped small quarters. CEO Martin Miller stated, “ a 65 year-old former dorm is not adequate for 21st century broadcasting.” Among Springfield residents, there has been a positive public reception for WFCR’s decision to move.

Unfortunately for the UMass Campus, by 2014 WFCR will no longer be broadcast from within the Hampshire House. The sound which was broadcast over the Pioneer Valley airwaves for over fifty years will have a new home. By good fortune, WFCR is moving to Springfield, a city which will most likely embrace the radio station. While WFCR might soon be “lost” at UMass Amherst, it can still be found on the airwaves.

Creator

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Source

UMass Special Collections and University Archives

Publisher

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Date

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Contributor

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Rights

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Relation

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Format

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Language

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Type

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Identifier

RG150-0005692

Coverage

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Original Format

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Physical Dimensions

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Files

RG150-0005692.png
Date Added
August 29, 2012
Collection
Southwest Campus & Commonwealth Avenue
Item Type
Still Image
Citation
“WFCR Radio Station,” Lost UMass, accessed April 22, 2018, http://lostumass.omeka.net/items/show/19.