A Brief Chronology of Dartmouth Broadcasting
1924-25: Initial experiment in non-commercial AM broadcasting, ended abruptly by a scandal.
October 1941: Low-power campus-limited station DBS launches, operates for 18 months then shuts down due to World War II. The driving force behind the station was Richard Krolik ’41, generally regarded as the “father” of Dartmouth broadcasting. He later became a broadcasting and publishing executive with Time-Life Inc.
May 1946: Campus station DBS returns to the air.
February 1948: Station changes its name to WDBS, joins other Ivy League stations to form the “Ivy Network” to solicit national advertising. Over the next ten years the station, though still campus-limited, becomes increasingly businesslike.
March 1958: WDCR launches as a 250-watt commercial AM station covering both the campus and adjacent region. Power increased to 1,000 watts (during daytime) in April 1961. Programming extremely varied, from “Interfraternity Quiz” to daily top 40 popular music shows. One of the most popular shows is the late-night “Music Til Midnight,” featuring contemporary rock music.
November 1960: The news department mounts the most extensive coverage to date of a presidential election, with dozens of staffers polling towns throughout the region and reporting results live from a large specially equipped ballroom. In later years primary and election night coverage would grow into an even bigger production called the “Dartmouth Election Network” and would be syndicated to other stations.
1963: Major listenership survey shows five year-old WDCR not only dominates the campus audience but is highly competitive in the three-station regional market.
1965: Year-round broadcasting begins, with the addition of summer broadcasting most summers from this point forward.
March 1966: College establishes a formal Board of Overseers to oversee the station, including two representatives from the administration, two faculty members, plus the student directors. Prior to this there had been a single faculty advisor (Prof. Almon Ives), who had little hands-on involvement. Students still run the station, but the Board provides advice and puts pressure on management to meet its goals, particularly financial goals.
Late 1960s: station reflects growing Vietnam-era turmoil on campus, which culminated with student occupation of the administration building (1969), expulsion of ROTC from campus, racial demonstrations.
September 1972: Previously all-male Dartmouth admits women for the first time, and converts to the four-term “D-Plan” with college operating year-round, including summers. Women begin to enter station ranks, slowly. Too slowly, said some.
1975: First professional sales representative hired, to improve and stabilize revenue.
March 1976: After years of contention with local business interests over an available FM license in the market, Dartmouth secures the license and WFRD-FM goes on the air as “sister station” to WDCR-AM. Over the following years WFRD becomes the lead station in the duopoly, as FM gradually becomes dominant in radio generally.
February 1980: The biggest election night coverage in station history, for the New Hampshire primary, heard in 39 states via feeds to 20 stations including WBZ Boston. Student reporters are heard by an estimated 8 to 10 million listeners. The station’s 1976 primary coverage was also widely heard, having been syndicated to 29 smaller stations in four states.
1985: Major format changes begin, as WFRD-FM gradually becomes a tightly formatted commercial rock station aimed at the regional market and WDCR-AM a more campus-oriented eclectic mix of formats of interest to students. There are some complaints about this. WFRD branded “99Rock,” stages promotions.
August 1995: Major reconstruction of the building in which the station is located (Robinson Hall), new state-of-the-art digital studios open a year later.
Late 1990s: Basic changes take place in radio due to federal deregulation. Numerous local stations are scooped up by national chains such as Clear Channel Broadcasting, which program and sell them as packages. Like many locally oriented “standalone” stations, WFRD/WDCR finds it difficult to compete with the national goliaths. Student staffing is also a problem, due to the erratic schedules of Dartmouth students under the four-term “D-Plan” (which forces them to take terms off), and an explosion in the number of extracurricular activities.
March 2008: WDCR-AM celebrates its 50th anniversary, but suffers from steadily declining listenership in a music world dominated by FM, the internet and iPods. Six months later the college shuts down AM broadcasting, converting its feed to a web-stream (only) at www.WebDCR.com. WFRD also streams its signal, allowing both stations to be heard around the world.