Every radio station’s greatest challenge is reaching listeners.
Since its inception more than two decades ago, that challenge has been more pronounced at the University of North Florida. Limited to online streaming radio and simulcasts on cable channels for most of its existence, the college radio station succeeded in training communications students but not in reaching the majority of UNF students.
After more than two decades, UNF is closer than ever to reaching those students as well as broadcasting over the air and potentially reaching thousands of Jacksonville residents who live near the Southside campus.
The Federal Communications Commission issued the university a permit to construct a low-power FM transmitter Feb. 6, and Spinnaker Radio will be able to broadcast on 95.5 FM via a 100-watt signal, extending the station’s reach to off-campus listeners at a distance of about 3.5 miles in every direction on a clear day.
“Before, people had to be logged in on their computers to listen,” Spinnaker Radio station manager Scott Young said. “Now, all people will have to do is turn on the radio and enjoy the show.”
UNF has 30 days, from Feb. 6, to pick call letters with Spinnaker Radio staff making recommendations that will ultimately go to UNF President John Delaney's desk. The station’s call letters that once had been used unofficially on campus — WOSP — belong to the Ohio State University.
The 3.5-mile radius that the station may now serve on a clear day would reach north to about Atlantic Boulevard, south to Baymeadows Road, east to San Pablo Boulevard and west to the edge of Tinseltown on Southside Boulevard.
Originally known as the University of North Florida Broadcasting Association — a UNF club — when station manager Todd Hardie started it in 1993, the station endured, despite a lack of over-the-air broadcast. Known as Osprey Radio for most of its existence, the station relocated to the UNF Student Union with other student media outlets in 2009. Recently, Osprey Radio and Osprey TV were rebranded with the student print publication as Spinnaker Radio and Spinnaker TV.
Now, the FCC building permit will allow Spinnaker Radio to truly grow with the campus and the surrounding community.
“On-campus living has increased tremendously since my time there, and the station will still continue to reach that audience, but now it can also reach the surrounding community,” Hardie said. “[Three and a half] miles may not seem that far, but it will still get people in for things like baseball games or any other events that they might not have known about otherwise.”
Young said the stars aligned with the university’s last application to the FCC, but by no means did the approval fall from the sky. He said this is the product of years of hard work and diligence from the university and Spinnaker Radio.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” Young said. “We’ve been operating as an online radio station for many years, and now we have the opportunity to advance beyond that and become an active presence in the community.”
According to Media Adviser John Timpe, the station wasn’t held back from LPFM approval by lack of ratings or ambition or from noncompliance with FCC standards. Until last year, there simply wasn’t enough room on the dial under the old rules.
When the window to apply for the permit rolled around last fall, Spinnaker Media staff was surprised to not catch any friction from competitors, Timpe said.
“For whatever reason, fewer applied than we thought, and we received no competition for that spot on the dial,” he said. Timpe expects the estimated cost of construction for the transmitter, other equipment and labor is expected to be $35,000 to $40,000.
Scott expects to have station broadcasting on LPFM by the end of the summer semester in August.
“The station has so much potential to grow,” Young said. “The only thing that’s keeping UNF from growing into a more influential community presence like the University of Florida was FM transmission capability.”