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Bobcat Radio debuts at UC Merced

UC Merced went live Wednesday with “Napoleon Says” by the French band Phoenix.

This song marked the start of the university's Bobcat Radio inaugural broadcast. It’s still waiting for approval from the Federal Communications Commission to cover Merced-area airwaves, but in the mean time it can be heard online.

Disc jockey Conor Mangan, a psychology junior, shared his favorite tunes Wednesday over a live Web cast at mms:// Music was also pumped into the campus dining commons as Mangan worked the radio technology just outside.

Each Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. from now on anyone can listen to the school’s eclectic mix of music and talk online. Students can also tune in to FM 90.1 if they are within a 400 feet radius of the radio equipment — the maximum limit for a station not yet licensed by the FCC.

But this is only the beginning, says freshman Jason Knight, general manager of the radio station and leader of the Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning Program.

The program allows students to participate in engineering activities to support nonprofit organizations — in this case, Bobcat Radio. The station comes from a combined effort of the service learning program and the campus’ Bobcat Radio Club, which has been in the works since 2005.

At first it was more like the “people interested in music club,” said Ron Durbin, director of development for UC Merced’s School of Engineering. But as the project to hit the airways moved along, everyone learned more about the technology.

It could be about a year and a half before the FCC approves the station — if it approves it at all — to be heard throughout the community on radio airwaves, Knight said. But during this time and after the potential approval Bobcat Radio will expand to include more student DJs, guest speakers from the public and recorded university seminars.

The station is being modeled after other successful University of California broadcasts, especially UC Los Angeles, which has a strong online radio station. Knight said he’d also like UC Merced’s station to eventually resemble UC Santa Cruz’s, which allows five hours a day of community member broadcasting.

“We’re following in the path of our brethren UC campuses that have done great things,” Durbin said.

University faculty and staff serve an advisory role to this student-run station, including about 10 students in the service learning program and 20 in the radio club.

And because the station is so new, students can tailor it to what serves the area best, Knight said. He doesn’t want it to fall only in specific categories.

Programming will range from rock and reggae to R&B and house music with some news and other talk thrown in. Keep your ears out for an upcoming broadcast about Merced’s farmers market.

Those who tune in will also notice a video component to this online station — a work still in progress. “It’s just one more cool thing happening on campus,” Durbin said.

And on the World Wide Web.