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Editor’s note – this is copied over from our old website and some of the links are broken – soon to be fixed.

This section of the CBN home page is an attempt to preserve the history of the Network. It is very incomplete — reconstructed by digging through the archives and talking to people. Thanks to Dolby for his research paper about the Network’s history. If you have any information, including photos, flyers, or recordings that you would like to add to this site, please email: web@wcbn.org.

CBN History Part I: Residence Hall Studios

Prior to the existance of the Campus Broadcasting Network, there were a number of students at the University of Michigan who were interested in radio broadcasting. At the time, the University owned and operated an FM station, WUOM, also known as Michigan Radio. However, this station was not (and still is not) an outlet for students. It was up to interested students to create their own broadcasting outlet, so they formed radio clubs in the basements of their dormitories.

The story we heard is that in 1947 a friend of Fred Remley received an FM transmitter as a Christmas present. They set it up in his dorm room in East Quadrangle, and by 1950 there were studios in East Quadrangle, South Quadrangle, and West Quadrangle.

These studios operated independently of one another. Each one created programming for its own building, and was staffed by the people who lived there. Instead of owning and operating radio transmitters, each studio sent its signal through the electrical system in its building. This type of broadcasting is called carrier current. The dormitory studios could not be heard beyond the building they originated in.

In 1952, these independent studios decided to start working together. A switching system was developed that allowed the individual dormitories to hear and contribute to one broadcast. The Campus Broadcasting Network was born as WCBN-AM 650

CBN History Part II: WCBN 650 AM

The popularity of the Network grew rapidly. The voice of the Network began to define itself as the station became a major outlet for student interests. Programming was aimed toward the student body, since it was the only group of people who could hear it. According to a Michigan Daily Freshman Issue from 1960, WCBN-AM did regular broadcasts of Michigan football, basketball, and hockey games; band, glee club, and orchestra concerts; and various other campus events. In addition, all of WUOM’s programming was available for WCBN to broadcast.

The carrier current broadcasting system was brought into other University buildings, including women’s dormitories and the President’s residence. As the years progressed, carrier current loops were installed into private residences, including the Inter-Cooperative Council’s building on North Campus.

Although the Network had been formally created as a single entity, its studios remained scattered across campus until 1957. With the erection of the new Student Activities Building on central campus came a suite of studios and offices for CBN. Centralization simplified both management and engineering,

With growth came greater financial need, and the Network began to take advertising from both local and national businesses. Revenue went back into equipment purchases and other station expenses.

A conscience change was made to WCBN’s programming by its Program Director in 1969. It was stated that the programming of the station would reflect the needs and wants of its audience, instead of those of the air staff. This was a big step in the evolution of the Network, as this is a directive that is followed by today’s programming staff.

Throughout the latter half of the 1960’s, many CBN members felt that the goals of the station would be better executed if WCBN broadcast on FM, in addition to carrier current AM. During 1969 and 1970, a great deal of research was carried out to determine if this would be possible (and it was). On November 30, 1970, WCBN put forth a proposal to the Office of Student Services Policy Board asking for support and funding.

In February of 1971, the Board of Regents approved the proposal for a 10-watt WCBN-FM, and construction began.

CBN History Part III: WCBN 89.5FM

WCBN-FM went on the air for the first time on Janruary 23, 1972, broadcasting at 10 watts in stereo on 89.5FM. The carrier current station was kept in operation, but in order to avoid confusion, its call letters were changed to WRCN in 1973. WRCN adopted a “60’s Gold” format, and emulated commercial radio in every manner, from the “slickness” of the on-air personalities to the scheduled commercial breaks. WCBN was not yet a freeform station, but was already quite eclectic. An article published in the Michigan Daily’s Freshman Issue in September of 1974 explains the differences between WCBN and WRCN.

1974 was also the first year that WCBN stayed on the air during the summer months. It was not yet a 24-hour signal

The years spent on 89.5FM were short for the Campus Broadcasting Network, but they were a time of tremendous growth. For the first time, the voice of WCBN could be heard by the community at large. A variety of new shows were started, many in conjunction with student groups.

Since the community could now listen to WCBN, they began to get involved with it. Community involvement has become an inteegral part of the Network’s aesthetic. Community

until 1977

CBN History Part IV: WCBN 88.3FM @ 10 Watts



WCBN forced to move to 88.3 in 1977

This new frequency happened to be the lowest frequency, which made for a variety of new slogans, affiliating this physical leftness with liberalism and free-thinking free-form radio. how utopian.

“All the way to the left”



WCBN forced to move to 88.3 in 1977

This new frequency happened to be the lowest frequency, which made for a variety of new slogans, affiliating this physical leftness with liberalism and free-thinking free-form radio. how utopian.

“All the way to the left”

“The only ones left”

78: fleming wants no non-student involvement

80: first fundraiser. voice in the community; community responds. good press results. flyer from show (the green one).

80: it’s my party.

CBN History Part V: WCBN 88.3FM @ 200 Watts

in 1984 I think.

Forced to grow because the FCC would not protect stations under 100 watts anymore.

1986: benefit bash footage

1987: chris daley incident

WJJX shut down

1988 non student removal

WJJX back up

RealAudio sports broadcasts

Streaming audio

productions and concerts.

CBN History: Radio/Broadcasting Timeline

1888Heinrich Hertz detects and produces radio waves.

1894Marchese Guglielmo Marconi builds his first radio equipment, a device that will ring a bell from 30 ft. away.

1899Marconi establishes first radio link between England and France.

1900American scientist R.A. Fessenden transmists human speech via radiowaves.

1901Marconi transmits telegraphic radio messages from Cornwall to Newfoundland

1903Valdemar Poulsen patents an arc transmission that generates continuous radio waves, producing a frequency of 100 kHz and receivable over 150 miles.

1904First radio transmission of music at Graz, Austria.

1905Marconi invents the directional radio antennae.

1906First radio program of voice and music broadcast in the U.S. (by R.A. Fessenden)

1907Fessenden invents a high-frequency electric generator that produces radio waves with a frequency of 100 kHz.

1908GE develops a 100 kHz, 2 kW alternator for radio communication.

1910Radio communications gain publicity when the captain of the Montrose alerts Scotland via radio of an escaping criminal.

1913The cascade-tuning radio receiver and the heterodyne receiver are introduced.

1914Edwin Armstrong patents a radio receiver circuit with positive feedback. Part of the amplified high-frequency signal is fed back to the tuning circuit to enhance selectivity and sensitivity.

1918Armstrong develops the superheterodyne radio receiver. The principle for this receiver is the basis for all radio receivers now in use.
A 200 kW alternator starts operating at Station NFF, the Naval station in New Brunswick NJ, which was the most powerful radio transmitter of the time.

1919Shortwave radio is developed.
RCA is founded.

1920KDKA broadcasts the first regular licensed radio broadcast out of Pittsburgh, PA.

1921RCA starts operating Radio Central on Long Island.
The American Radio League establishes contact via a shortwave radio with Paul Godley in Scotland, proving that shortwave radio can be used for long distance communication.

1922March: WWJ, an AM station in Detroit, offers the University of Michigan broadcasting rights for extension lectures.

1923UM’s Professor Dreese submits a proposal for several UM operated stations. His proposal was tabled by the Regents, who were not concerned with radio at the time.

1924Dreese instead runs experimental station WCBC as a project in the basement of West Engineering. This project died at the end of the academic year.

1925WJR-AM offers educational broadcasting spots to the UM. The UM continued to broadcast on WWJ as well.

1928A radio statio in NYC, WRNY begins to broadcast television shows.

1931The UM School of Music pursues the idea of radio as education. It taught school band lessons via radio.

1933Educational programming originating at the UM grows.
The Regents of the UM become interested in radio.
WJR cuts the UM’s educational broadcasts for commercial broadcasting.
Edward Armstrong patents wide-band frequency modulation (FM radio).

1935FM radio is born, but only in mono.

1938The FCC sets aside educational/non-profit bandwidth on FM.

1941Oct.10: Columbia University’s Radio Club opens the first regularly scheduled FM station.

1943The UM decides it needs an FM station, and expresses a commitment to radio broadcasting.

1945Television is born. FM is moved from its original home of 42-50 Mhz to 88-108 Mhz to make room for TV.

1946There are six TV stations in the nation.

1948The UM starts its first station, known as Michigan Radiom or WUOM.
The Regents publish a mandate for broadcasting.
WOUM is no outlet for studen broadcasting, so student radio clubs form and create small studios in East Quadrangle and West Quadrangle. These studios broadcast on AM to their respective buildings via carrier current.

1950A small studio is created in the newly-erected South Quadrangle.

1952Sony offers a miniature transistor radio. This is one of the first mass-produced consumer AM/FM radios.
The studios in the UM dormitories jorn forces, and “The Campus Broadcasting Network” is born as WCBN-AM.

1953Advertising is accepted on WCBN-AM.

1954The number of radio receivers in the world exceeds the number of newspapers printed daily.

1956WCBN hosts the first National Association of College Broadcasters.

1957CBN moves into the new Student Activities Building, and its studios start to become centralized.
Allan Ginsberg’s controvesial poem, “Howl” is broadcast for the first time.

1961FCC approves FM stereo broadcasting, which spurs FM development.

1962United States radio stations begin broadcasting in stereophonic sound.

1965WCBN studios are completely centralized in the SAB. CBN’s identity becomes stronger as its programming becomes increasingly eclectic and challenging.

1969WCBN starts to think about purchasing an FM transmitter.
FM is deemed necessary to reach off-campus students and the community at large. CBN’s audience is a different audience from WUOM’s, so there would be no competition.
February: WCBN’s Program Director announces that programming will be designed to meet the needs of the audience, not the needs of the air staff.

1970The Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC) has a CBN carrier current loop installed into its North Campus residence.

1971FM plans are finalized for WCBN.
February: The UM Regents approves plans for WCBN-FM, and building begins.

1972January 23 :WCBN-FM 89.5 FM is born, broadcasting at 10 watts.
WCBN-AM is maintained, and adopts a “60’s Gold” format.

1977Frequency change for WCBN takes place (from 89.5FM to 88.3FM).
November: The Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks is released. “Things change.” –Ken Freedman

1978U-M President Robben Fleming urges that WCBN should be used only for educational purposes and restricted to students only.

1979February: First WCBN fundraiser is organized by Ann Rebentisch, and raises $5,000.

1980CBN plays “It’s my Party” by Leslie Gore for 18 hours straight the day after Reagan is elected.

1981FCC complaint against CBN filed by disgruntled staffers. The FCC takes it very seriously but does not level a fine.

1986In Europe, FM radio stations begin to use the subcarrier signal of FM radio to transmit digital data. This RDS (radio data system) is used to transmit messages on display screens to radios.

1987At WJJX (WCBN’s AM counterpart), a student DJ is fired for broadcasting a series of racist jokes.

1988The U-M decides to oust non-students from WCBN.
WCBN airs Allan Ginsberg’s Howl.

1992In Paris an experimental digital FM transmitter begins operation.

1993In the US, FM radio stations begin to use the RDS already in place in Europe.

Some Voices of WCBN

One way that radio station WCBN-FM identifies itself to its listeners is through station identification announcements, or station IDs. The following link to recordings of some of WCBN’s most popular or well-engineered announcements. Some of these files are quite large (modem users beware).