WVFI vies for FM status, respect
By MATTHEW SMITH
Years ago, WVFI was an AM station with a loyal listeners, but after the introduction of powerful electronic devices in dorms — computers and TV's, stereos and refrigerators — its signals weakened with outdated equipment. The University-funded station struggled to regain listeners.
After a few weeks with a world-wide audience, student-run WVFI will have to be satisfied with on-campus broadcasting until it gets the opportunity to become an FM station.
In September, "The Voice of the Fighting Irish" moved from its traditional home at 640 AM and to an Internet broadcast. Although its agreement with the University only allowed broadcasting to people within the Notre Dame system, due to a loophole, programming was available in cyberspace worldwide.
When the mistake was discovered three weeks ago, University administrators limited access to WVFI to Notre Dame students with current AFS IDs, muting the station to Domers and fans without current campus connections.
Now, station managers' only recourse to a larger listening audience is to wait for WVFI to come up on a list of organizations requesting FM dial space. According to Adele Lanan, the station's Student Activities' media advisor, students should use the down time to hone their skills.
"In my mind, they should have a year to prove what they can do," she said. "There is a difference between professional and unprofessional, and they have got to show up for shifts so there aren't hours of dead air. You can't get away with that on an FM station."
John Forgash, station manager of WVFI believes the period of global broadcasting allowed the station to show off its work ethic. Employees learned a lot about what it takes to bring in an audience.
"I think the best part of it was it was unexpected, and it made the DJ's really focus on what they were doing," he said. "We have received a lot of emails, mostly from parents and alumni, asking why we couldn't broadcast globally anymore. The University doesn't know the impact we made and how serious we would take it [if given the chance to broadcast globally again]."
However, the University's discovery caused a plan to be immediately implemented which only allows listeners with Notre Dame AFS passwords to listen to the station. This has some WVFI employees in a uproar, including Patrick Furey, also known as "DJ Joker" on the airwaves.
"We don't have money for equipment; all we have is University censorship," said Furey. "They don't want anyone to hear us."
Furey maintains the station wants its global audience back and an FM station in the next few years. However, he sees the obstacle that lies ahead: "All we can do is beg. They have total control. It took them about two seconds to block our Internet broadcast [globally] last month," he said.
Lanan, who strongly influence on the future course of WVFI, is not ready to deem the station worthy of storming the world's airwaves.
"They should have news when they say they will have news, and they should have community events, like a real radio station would have," she said.
Despite her worries, Lanan seems to welcome the thought of a WVFI FM station. "There is no room left on the dial, but WVFI is on a waiting list. If a `low power station' [a station with a 3-mile signal] opens up, the University has agreed to do that," she said.
Forgash has never heard mention of a waiting list for FM or of any administration support for such an FM station for WVFI. He feels that station employees should "take that with a grain of salt," and see the possibility of FM as only "a long-term goal."
"The University is assuming that we will make a mistake, so they are preventing us from having a chance, to avoid us making some mistake," he said.
"We have freedom of programming now, but a limited audience," said Forgash. "The University is very concerned about its image and about being very conservative."
Despite her hope that the station will thrive, Lanan makes it clear that "the most important thing [WVFI] has to show us is that they can maintain their professionalism."
A proposal by the staff of WVFI is being put together to present to Student Affairs, urging them to allow the station to broadcast globally once again.
"A lot of DJs are involved, and we are gathering letters of confidence from our listeners as evidence," he said.
The station is also arguing that if such student media outlets as The Observer and the Scholastic have worldwide Internet capabilities, WVFI should too.
"We weren't expecting to be able to go global at first, but when we did, new audiences were opened to us that would benefit from our broadcasts," Forgash said.
WVFI will broadcast varsity and Bookstore Basketball games in addition to their football game broadcasts this season.
All News Stories for Monday, November 8, 1999