Radio friendly paradigm shifter : progressive college broadcasting in the 1980s
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This dissertation examines the role progressive college radio played as a site of political engagement for youth in the United States in the 1980s, particularly in its connection to punk culture. Progressive college radio is defined here as a particular type of noncommercial radio broadcast from university radio stations. It inherited from educational radio a commitment to democratic communication and from community radio a commitment to localism and representing underrepresented communities. Progressive college radio continued these missions, but also applied them to music, playing music considered unmarketable by the commercial music industry and thereby representing underrepresented musicians. College radio is popularly remembered as the radio format that helped create commercial alternative rock in the 1980s. This narrative effaces the way the most progressive college stations programmed music hostile to the music industry, especially punk and its related genres, and the way that progressive DJs often felt uncomfortable being part of a farm system for the music industry, something this dissertation investigates. Through discourse analysis of archival materials from four progressive college radio stations, as well as interviews with former DJs, this dissertation reveals how station personnel understood the role of progressive college radio in relation to the music industry, punk culture, the dominant culture of the US in the 1980s, and in their own lives. By investigating how the DJs conceptualized and debated their programming and production practices, this project illustrates how progressive college radio responded to increasing music industry scrutiny and a conservative culture’s increasingly hostile and narrow conceptions of youth. This dissertation also charts the ways progressive college radio DJs mobilized punk’s do-it-yourself (DIY) mode of cultural production, amateur aesthetics, and anti-authoritarianism, to create both a physical and sonic space for self-representation and creative expression.