WOBC Cybercast Worldwideby Ben Polletta
The musings of Oberlin students can now be heard by people all over the world, thanks to a little help from the internet.
WOBC, Oberlin College's radio station, began webcasting - broadcasting its signal over the internet - two months ago. The radio station's broadcasts can now be accessed 24 hours a day by anyone with RealAudio software. "I'd like to think of the webcast as part of the rebuilding of the station," Ben Calhoun, WOBC's manager, said.
"During the '90s, [WOBC] kind of went downhill, and it still has a reputation within the local college stations as kind of a Mickey Mouse operation," Calhoun said. According to Calhoun, the past few years have seen a turnaround. Both the number of missed shows and the number of thefts from the station have decreased in recent years.
The webcast has been on the WOBC agenda for years now, but budget constraints kept it from becoming a reality. Last year, WOBC's former manager, Dave Tamarkin (OC '00), began negotiations with the Athletics Department to broadcast their football and basketball games in return for the money to fund the webcast.
The athletics department has paid for all the hardware involved in the webcast. This includes a $3,000 computer which encodes the radio station's audio signal before sending it to the College's server in Mudd library.
Both the radio station and the athletics department hope that webcasts of Oberlin's basketball and football games will help keep alumni in contact with the school. "Sports games give us a better connection to the alums," Calhoun said. "Hopefully that can be a source of money for us, so that we can get back on track."
The webcast comes at a particularly opportune time considering the recent extension of Cleveland 91.5's broadcasting hours. Formerly a daytime station, 91.5 now broadcasts around the clock.
This prevents WOBC's signal from pushing into the airspace above Cleveland after dusk, as it once did. "Now we don't have access to that market, because they're on all the time," said Calhoun. "This webcast allows us to reach listeners that our signal can't get to."
Another result of the change may be an increase in the number of promotions the station receives from record labels. The College Music Journal, or CMJ, rates every college radio station in the country according to its market: the number of potential listeners it reaches.
This rating is directly related to the amount of influence a given station has on the CMJ charts, and thus on the record industry.
WOBC currently has a rating of three out of five. "We want to be a four," said Calhoun. The highest-rated stations are also the most vigorously courted by record labels. They receive the lion's share of free records, posters and other promotions.
Currently, the webcast can be accessed by only 100 listeners at a time. Calhoun hopes that renovations of WOBC's website, taking place over winter term, will improve this number.
The current website, designed by an Oberlin College student from the show "I'm On the Stereo," will be improved, and may be moved to another server.
WOBC's webcast was installed by Oberlin's webmaster, Dave Waldron, with assistance from John Appley of Oberlin Online. It can be accessed by plugging the address http://www.oberlin.edu:8080/ramgen/encoder/wobc.rm into RealAudio.
It can also be accessed on the WOBC website, www.oberlin.edu/~WOBC, by clicking on the antennae.
"WOBC, when it started, was at the forefront of things, and it's kind of fallen behind," Calhoun said. "Hopefully this will help us catch up."
Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
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