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 VOL. 23, NO. 19APRIL 3, 1998 

WBAR, Barnard’s Radio Station, Is Now Broadcasting on Your AM Dial


WBAR general manager Karen Eliot-Kahn, BC’98, listens in on an afternoon show featuring music from the 80s. Record Photo by Amy Callahan.

Barnard’s radio station finally has hit the airwaves, with the help of a new antenna and approval of the Federal Communications Commission.

  Previously broadcast only to the Barnard campus, WBAR is now found at 1680 AM and can be heard in the Morningside neighborhood from W. 110th to W. 122nd Sts., between Morningside and Riverside Drives. The rock station’s new seven-foot antenna was installed atop Sulzberger Hall during winter break.

  In the pre-antenna days, WBAR broadcast on 87.9 FM via “carrier current,” a simple system somewhat like communicating with two paper cups connected by a string. The station’s signal was transmitted from long wires that were hung in elevator shafts in campus buildings, according to general manager Karen Eliot-Kahn, a senior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

  Under these conditions, the signal radiated out for about 200 feet. The “carrier current” system remains in place so WBAR can still be heard on FM.

  WBAR now offers an alternative to WKCR, Columbia’s radio station, at least in the Morningside Heights area which both stations serve. “I don’t think we really compete,” said Eliot-Kahn, “because they have a more structured format—jazz and classical—that appeals to an older audience than the music we play.”

  As part of the change to AM, WBAR’s broadcast schedule has been expanded to 24 hours a day. The new round-the-clock schedule requires more student disc jockeys—about 170—to keep the turntables and compact disks spinning out music that ranges from college and industrial rock to rap, reggae and dance music, along with news and public service announcements. Seventy-seven new DJs were selected from more than 100 applicants.

  The major criterion for becoming a WBAR disc jockey is having a “good play list,” the 50 or so songs the applicant would play on the air, said Eliot-Kahn, a music major. Each “play list” was reviewed by the music director for that specific genre to see if the DJ wannabes “knew their music,” she said.

  Barnard sophomore Nahid Seyedsayamdost is one of WBAR’s new DJs. The media studies major from Hamburg, Germany, was a substitute during the first semester, and is now playing reggae music every Saturday from 8:00 to 10:00 A.M. She also offers commentary on a variety of news and opinion pieces from local newspapers, which requires two to three hours of preparation. Still, being a DJ “is one of the more fun things I’ve done at Barnard,” she said.

  She and her fellow DJs work in a crowded studio behind the curving staircase in the lower level of McIntosh Student Center. The walls are lined with more than 4,000 CDs, filed by category. Most of the station’s records and CDs are sent in free by record labels, but some music is purchased.

  WBAR has a $14,000 annual budget that covers the expense of running at least six dances a year, hiring bands and buying and maintaining equipment. Recently purchased equipment includes a CD player, tape players and headphones.

  WBAR was able to erect its new antenna because of recent changes in FCC regulations that allow colleges to broadcast over low frequency AM antennas.