WPSC history

The following history of WPSC, William Paterson's radio station, was written by Anthony M. Maltese, in 2005.  Maltese, professor emeritus, communication, retired in June 1996 after 36 years of teaching at William Paterson. He served as chairperson of the Communication Department. He also introduced the radio/television programs and served as an advisor to WPSC-FM.

WPSC : A Retrospective Memory
By Anthony M. Maltese, Ph.D.

Anthony Maltese

Anthony M. Maltese

Fall 1965 -- The Genesis

Academic offerings in the Speech Communication Department piqued and motivated students to explore their interests in broadcasting.

Encouraged by independent study and extra credit opportunities, several speech communication majors took the creation of a radio station on campus as a challenge. They carried a record player and about two dozen records to the Snack Bar (now Coach House). It was a place centrally located on campus where students and faculty frequently gathered for sandwiches, coffee, soda, and conversation.

At the Snack Bar, the speech students hooked the record player to the loud speaker system, and with an in-house microphone introduced each record they played. This “broadcast” was sent throughout the Snack Bar speaker system. Students in the Snack Bar began to ask for their favorite records, and audience requests were at times accommodated. Students not involved with the project would often bring their own records with them and give them to the disc jockey.

The Project Grows

The initial effort of broadcasting in the Snack Bar was enhanced by mid-semester. Students, with faculty approval, went across the street to Hunziker Hall where the Audio Visual Center was located and signed out a better record player and microphone, thereby making the operation sound better.

During the course of that first semester it was decided that the AV Center, located in the basement of Hunziker Hall, could be used as a studio location. That building was diagonally across from the Snack Bar. In the latter part of fall 1965, students set up a modified radio studio in a small portion of the AV Center control room. Using two permanently mounted turntables, they could cross fade and incorporate a much better microphone system in their broadcasts. With a direct audio line strung from the AV Center across the road to the Snack Bar, a more formal disc jockey enterprise ensued. This continued for the remainder of the semester and moved into spring 1966.

What a step up this was for these students who were bitten by the broadcasting bug. They began to think and feel “radio” and soon sought to remove themselves from the cramped space in the small control room. The intensity to “play radio” increased and so did their desire to create a more professional operation. They requested more space in the AV Center but were unable to get it.

At this time in the Speech Department, academic offerings in radio, media, and communication were blossoming. Many of the majors were now involved in the make-shift radio operation. The Speech Department, with its burgeoning theatre program, was located in a relatively new building, Shea Center.

College-wide interest in developing a radio station was awakening across the campus. Not only were speech communication majors involved but other students from departments in speech correction, physics, and music were taking an active role.

After the move to Shea, the students and staff began to make inquiries to the FCC for frequency allocation. No frequencies were available. The educational frequency for the college’s location was held by the Franklin Lakes Board of Education. The lack of a license, however, did not deter student and staff interest. The next step was to investigate the formation of a carrier current station, a method of low-power AM radio transmission to a small area.

That summer, in 1966, with initial start-up funds from a faculty member for rental use of telephone lines and spot advertisements that the students created, Paterson State’s carrier current radio station, WPSC, began its operations. The voice of Paterson State College was heard on 590 AM, transmitting from Shea Center.

The station operated out of Room 170 in Shea Center. The studio was linked via phone lines to the two dormitories, Heritage Hall and Pioneer Hall, the Snack Bar, Wayne Hall Dining Room, and Morrison Hall, the college administration building. Amplifiers, located where phone lines entered the buildings, received the 590 AM radio station signal. From the amplifiers, the radio station signal was transmitted to the dormitory rooms and the other campus locations. Recipients were able to receive the transmitted signals by tuning their radio receivers to 590 AM.

Because of the cost of the equipment and monthly telephone line charges, funding was necessary. Consequently, a radio club was formed called WPSC Radio. Officers were elected, a constitution was written, and the group had a faculty advisor. The Student Government Association (SGA) approved the formation of the radio club and granted a start-up budget to the organization. Having developed a list of equipment needs, the club moved quickly in the fall of 1966. Three professional turntables, an audio mixing board, microphones, and modest furniture were purchased immediately. Students did the installation themselves. Additional funds were allocated by the SGA for phone line costs, postage, and miscellaneous supplies. Students made contact with major record companies, and shortly thereafter a flow of free records arrived and broadened the scope of music offerings. This radio operation continued from Shea Center for at least five years before a major move to Hobart Hall.

With an ongoing budget, the club members began to think of the station as a replica of other professional radio operations. The station broadened and varied the scope of programming, setting up major departments of music, news, sports, publicity and public information, and business. Students who wanted on-air assignments had to take and pass voice tests. These were supervised by the students themselves.

News, music, and sports programming flourished. While music remained the major thrust of programming, news and especially sports gained in interest. On-site radio for basketball instilled interest in sports reporting. Telephone line cost for these events made the WPSC budget burgeon. 

Throughout the early years, the station became an important source for news and information about the college community. The two campus media entities complemented each other in their endeavors, since many of the students active in WPSC also worked for The Beacon, the campus newspaper, as editors and reporters.

Phase Three – Coming of Age

During the latter part of the 1960s, the college, like many institutions across the nation, was stressed by Vietnam protests, student power demonstrations, union strikes, and the impact of political assassinations and anti-war sentiment. As these tumultuous times pervaded the college atmosphere, WPSC 590 AM was influential on campus. Students leading the college radio operations maintained a professional attitude. The station remained on the air and broadcasted even when the college was not functioning because of unrest. College President James Karge Olsen often spoke to the students and campus community over the carrier current station. Discussions about campus concerns were also frequently aired, and Board of Trustees meetings were broadcast. The significance of the radio to engender understanding and communication with all of the college constituents was evident. Indeed, WPSC had come of age.

In the early 1970s, the campus school operated by the Education Department as a demonstration school, was to be closed down. Dr. Anthony Maltese and graduate and undergraduate students from the Communication Department had been assisting the Education Department with taping and viewing student teachers using video facilities. Since modest television facilities were available in Shea Auditorium, WPSC students and communication faculty petitioned the administration for use of the stage area by the radio station. The administration granted this request and allowed students to construct a radio station. Proudly, the students did just that. 

With permission from their advisor, Dr. Maltese, they gathered used lumber from the Pioneer Players and prevailed upon carpentry sources on campus for other lumber and proceeded to build the station. Two control rooms, an engineering room, offices, and a supply and storage location were constructed on the stage. WPSC students took the major responsibility and were extremely gratified when building and electrical inspectors from Haledon and Wayne approved their construction with high praise.

At this time several faculty had offices in the building. Shortly thereafter, the Communication Department, growing rapidly, moved all faculty offices to the campus school, called Hobart Hall, even though the department still produced major theatre productions in Shea Auditorium.

During the 1970s, the station continued to offer music and a varied programming schedule for its college audience. A contractual arrangement was made with United Artists Columbia, a cable television franchiser serving a large portion of New Jersey. WPSC became the first college radio station in New Jersey to link up with the UA Columbia channel. The college’s music and information programming could be heard by the network system that included more than nineteen thousand subscribers in the Northern New Jersey area. The station was coming of age.

The station featured local sports, politics, news, and a strong music format. News and information programs, interviews with national personalities, and speakers and guest performers appearing on campus were added and became the source for a more exciting and varied programming day. Responses and feedback came from individuals from many communities. And because of the station’s importance and coverage, the budget was increased by the SGA. The radio club had the largest club budget on campus. In addition, since it was a non-licensed entity, commercial copy and advertising sales were permissible and helped to increase funds available to WPSC.

The institution was renamed William Paterson College of New Jersey in 1971, and WPSC continued to vie for FCC approval for a license. Three applications were filed during the 1970s, but did not prevail. One application called for using an experimental antenna system. The application was granted by the FCC, but the college at that time did not agree to grant funding for the experimental system.

The search for a broadcasting AM or FM frequency throughout the years proved fruitless. The frequency 88.7 FM was allocated to the Franklin Lakes Board of Education. In the late 1970s, there wasn’t enough high school programming to fill the airwaves and many times they were not on the air. WPSC college students volunteered to assist the local high school station. Several of the WPSC students were graduates of Ramapo High School and had worked on that station as high school students. These and other WPSC students assisted the high school by covering the school board, town council meetings, and high school sporting events.

During this period, WPSC continued to grow. Through its contacts with UA Columbia, the station was able to link with other cable companies and was heard all over New Jersey.

Significantly, in the early 1980s, the FCC changed its rules dealing with non-commercial 10 watt stations. These broadcast stations had to upgrade to a minimum of 100 watts or their license would not be protected. If the upgrade was not accomplished, anyone could apply for the license. The Franklin Lakes Board of Education did not upgrade the license at 88.7 FM, and WPSC decided to apply for this frequency in 1982.

William Paterson students and faculty wanted their own FM station. This would complement academic courses in radio, an extremely popular segment of the communication major. WPSC’s ability and potential to meet professional broadcast standards was proven. After much cajoling and pressure, the administration and the Board of Trustees approved the application transmitted to the FCC. The license was approved by the FCC and granted to William Paterson College in 1983 as WPSC 88.7 FM. It has been functioning ever since.

There was a lot of student interest to participate in radio. To satisfy this need, a dual radio operation was initiated. A radio club, funded by the SGA, called WCRN operating on the 590 AM frequency was used. Since this was a club, it was open to all students and regulated by its constitution and bylaws, with officers and a budget approved by the SGA. As a carrier current operation using telephone lines, it was heard in the dorms and other major facilities on campus. Commercials and other announcements were allowed in the operation. It was not regulated by FCC rules for FM educational stations. The AM 590 service functioned side-by-side with the FM station, WPSC-FM. The configuration of radio services was crucial to meet the demands of many students who desired to try radio. It provided an excellent training ground for students who soon graduated to the open circuit FM operation. More than seventy-five students were active in the radio club. Many students stayed with WCRN because they had more freedom in their programming operation. Others gained experience on WCRN and chose to actively participate in the WPSC-FM station. It was the largest club on campus and received the largest budget from the SGA.

By 1988, the radio operation was upgraded and enhanced its power and coverage, influencing many throughout the years. The station moved from the Shea Center stage area and relocated to two large classrooms (C7 and C8) when Hobart Hall was undergoing major refurbishment. The station did not shut down. It functioned admirably.