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UW-Eau Claire Students and Faculty Involved in New Community Radio

RELEASED: Sept. 15, 2005

WHYS Radio logoEAU CLAIRE — A number of faculty/staff and student organizations at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have been among the 50 or so volunteers involved in helping to get WHYS, 96.3 FM, the new community radio station in Eau Claire, off the ground.

Jayne Bielecki, a clinical instructor in family health nursing at the university and one of the volunteers helping to publicize and raise money for the new station, hosts her own international music program, "The Freak Show," from 8 to 10 p.m. Fridays. She said she was looking for something new and different to do and was excited about the idea of a local station that could provide a forum for different viewpoints and new educational opportunities.

"I also joined as a way of becoming more involved in and promoting the community, because I think community is very important," Bielecki said.

The new station is a non-profit, low power FM station with a stated mission to provide 24-hour alternative news, music and informational programming to the Eau Claire area. Low power FM is a new class of FM radio broadcast license that was created by the Federal Communications Commission to give local community organizations access to the radio waves increasingly controlled by national corporations.

Daniel Drumm, another academic staff member involved in getting the station started, said local musicians have told him that it is difficult get their music on commercial radio.

"Not so at WHYS," said Drumm, a senior systems programmer in UW-Eau Claire's Learning and Technology Services department. He said the station plans to offer responsible reporting and a wide variety of music while focusing on local arts, culture and issues in the Eau Claire area.

Northern Thunder, an organization that promotes environmental and social activism in northern and western Wisconsin, holds the license for WHYS. The station's Web site states that WHYS welcomes the involvement of anyone who shares the values of "equal treatment for all peoples, respect for our natural environment and development of a sustainable future for all."

"Although we have overcome most major hurdles, we still have some growing pains ahead," said Drumm. "Listeners will hear incremental improvements over the next year."

So far more than 100 local businesses along with numerous individuals and local organizations throughout the community have contributed funds, equipment or services to help the station.

Bielecki said there has also been significant student involvement in the station. Students involved with the Student Radio Initiative at UW-Eau Claire are presenting one music show already, "The Funkyard," which airs 5-7 p.m. Saturdays, and are planning others. Senior Andrew Werthmann of the Progressive Student Association, which donated $600 to the station and co-hosted fundraisers, will have a Monday morning talk show about local and world issues.

"We are also excited about getting more students involved via service-learning," said Drumm.

According to Bielecki, WHYS Community Radio also aims to set air time aside for voices that are typically under-served by more conventional media outlets. "The Hmong Hour," for example, which airs 7-8 p.m. daily, features Hmong music, news and culture broadcast in the Hmong language, including a Christian show on Saturdays hosted by Chow Moua of the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association.

Also on Saturdays, This Way Out, an internationally syndicated radio news magazine focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered topics that airs at 8 p.m., is followed at 8:30 p.m. by This Way Out in the Chippewa Valley, a half-hour local program featuring an events calendar, music, interviews and discussions that may be of special interest to those in the LGBTQ community. The program is hosted by three UW-Eau Claire faculty members: Dr. Andrew Swanson, a mathematics lecturer; Dr. Susan Turell, a psychology professor and coordinator of the women's studies program; and Dr. Pamela Forman, an assistant professor of sociology.

Forman, who describes herself as a human rights activist, said she'd been thinking about doing a women's music show with Debra McNutt, a former program assistant in the College of Arts and Sciences who was also helping with the station. But when McNutt moved to Washington with her husband, geography professor Zoltan Grossman, yet another station supporter, Forman joined forces with Turell and Swanson.

"They were kind enough to let me in on their gig," said Forman, noting that she hopes the program will help increase visibility for the LGBTQ community and educate and create dialogue on related issues. "We will be expanding our repertoire as the show develops to possibly include book and movie reviews and discussions of contemporary issues."

Forman credits Grossman with getting her excited about the station initially.

"He did so much to get WHYS off the ground," Forman said.

Drumm noted that associate professor of English Robert Nowlan, is another UW-Eau Claire faculty member who was instrumental in starting the station. Nowlan, as DJ Sean Murphy, hosts "Insurgence," which features global music of resistance, rebellion and revolt, past and present, from across the globe; alternative pop; indie rock; and electronic dance music. The program airs 8-10 p.m. Thursdays. And Sean Hartnett, a professor of geography and anthropology, is planning an afternoon music show, "All Things Six String," which will be on the air soon.

"I should point out that many other UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff have helped out in one way or another, from donations to technical support," said Drumm, and we really appreciate the broad base of support from UW-Eau Claire. There are a surprising number of people helping out who have no interest in having a show. They just want quality radio in Eau Claire."

The community is invited to tour the new facility in The Kappus Building, 405 South Farwell, Suite 23, when the station has its grand opening celebration, set for noon-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct 1. Tours, refreshments and live acoustic music by Paul Fanfera, Squeeze This, Charlie Parr, Jeff White, and Billy Krause will be featured. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 1 p.m.

For those aged 21 and over, the fun will continue with a 9 p.m. benefit show at The House of Rock on Water Street. Bands performing are T.U.G.G., Down Lo, The Franklin Airmen and Downers Grove. All proceeds will go toward improving and maintaining WHYS.

For more information on WHYS Community Radio, including a more complete program schedule, call 831-WHYS (9497) or e-mail For more information on Northern Thunder, contact Will Fantle, (715) 839-7731.



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