“It all started in a little 240-watt radio station in southwest Wisconsin many years ago.”
Somewhat humorously, so begin many stories of successful broadcasting careers. Ironically, for students who majored in Radio-Television Broadcasting at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville or who worked at WSUP Radio, that’s exactly how many of their success stories began.
WSUP Radio started life as WSCI-FM in February 1964. Over the years the station changed call letters, operating frequency, studio location, and transmitting power. It was the first student-operated radio station within the University of Wisconsin System, followed by similar stations on other UW campuses over the years. Platteville faculty members Paul Gauger and Glenn Brooks led the effort to secure the station’s initial license. (Wisconsin’s first student-run radio station was Ripon College’s WRPN in 1961.)
The official licensee of WSUP has always been the Wisconsin State Board of Regents, with coordination by the University of Wisconsin System, and day-to-day operations managed by the individual campuses.
Regardless of their academic major, students from the entire UW-Platteville campus participated in WSUP Radio. The academic departments of Speech and Industrial Studies offered collaborative coursework to support the station’s operation. That initiative evolved into an academic program called Radio-Television Broadcasting, housed in the newly created Department of Communication in 1977.
As UW-Platteville’s program array changed over the years, the names of academic majors and departments also changed. Radio-Television Broadcasting became Broadcast Technology Management, with coursework in Broadcast Production, Sales and Management, and Broadcast Engineering. As the curriculum changed, so did the specific needs for faculty and academic staff qualifications. Over time, many of the program’s valuable hands-on classes transitioned into more theoretical and broad-based courses.
Broadcast technologies and regulation evolved over the years, as did the market demand for qualified broadcast-career applicants. Once drawn by the “sizzle” of radio and TV, prospective broadcasters turned to other academic majors that promised better career opportunities (salaries, flexibility) and more interesting challenges.
By 2015, the then-Department of Media Studies began to phase out broadcasting classes altogether, and the entire department was eventually eliminated. With no academic program to call home, WSUP Radio migrated to oversight within the Pioneer Involvement Center.
SAVE THE DATE!
Mark your calendar for Saturday, Sept. 17. UW-Platteville is hosting a “once-in-a-lifetime” reunion event to celebrate the more than 50 years of success of WSUP Radio and the academic program in Radio & Television Broadcasting. If you majored in any of the variations of the broadcasting program—even if you didn’t graduate in the major—or if you worked at WSUP Radio, please join us for a weekend of renewed friendships, shared memories and fun highlighted by a business-casual dinner on Saturday evening, and a fundraising initiative to promote the long-term health of WSUP Radio and its students. Additional activities are planned for Friday and Sunday that same weekend.
–George E. Smith