WVUA-FM is the University’s only student operated radio station. Its history dates back to 1940 when the Department of Radio Arts began operation of an AM carrier-current station (the signal was transmitted to dormitories and other buildings on campus through electrical wiring). The station was known as BRN (the Bama Radio Network). In 1947, the signal was extended and the station became known as WABP. The station was operated as a commercial venture at 570 on the AM dial. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, as more students moved off campus, the station’s listenership dwindled.
There was also another station on campus during the 1960’s, known as WUOA. This was a 30 watt FM station operated under the aegis of the Extension Division. The station was terminated because of insufficient funds to properly upgrade the station’s equipment. The call letters were appropriated for another commercial station after the University closed the campus station down.
The Broadcast and Film Department (as the Telecommunication and Film Department was known at the time) decided to apply for a 10 watt non-commercial stereo FM license in the late 1960’s. The FCC construction permit for the station was granted in early 1970, and the license itself was granted September 7, 1972. The station’s call letters were WUAL and it used the antenna previously used by WUOA. Interestingly, Professor Knox Hagood, then Department Chairman, attempted to get the call letters WTYD in 1971 for the station. It is not known why his attempt was unsuccessful.
In the late 1970’s, the University decided to add a public radio station. A decision was made to appropriate the student station and apply for an upgrade in power. It was felt that it would be easier to apply for an increase in power than to apply for a new 100,000 watt station license. The Faculty of the Broadcast and Film Communication Department, primarily Associate Dean Kieth Barze, then undertook the effort to apply for a non-commercial educational license in order to have a student run station. Experimental Authority was granted by the FCC on April 1, 1981 to operate WVUA (the Voice of the University of Alabama). The station received its 7-year non-commercial educational broadcasting license from the FCC in 1989.
Today the station, operating out of Telecommunication and Film Department facilities, transmits a stereo FM signal 24 hours a day to the University community and much of the city of Tuscaloosa. WVUA-FM is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. WVUA-FM is a chartered student organization and is staffed by approximately 50-70 student volunteers from both College of Communication and the University at large. Students do not receive course credit for working at the station.
The head of the Telecommunication and Film Department is the general manager of the station and works in conjunction with the faculty adviser to oversee the station. The general manager reports to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, who is the licensee.
The Media Planning Board (MPB) became involved with the station in 1994. The MPB provides the station with stable funding, helps with the annual budget, and also conducts the annual interview for WVUA-FM station manager.
WVUA’s mission is two-fold. First, the station strives to provide the University community with the best possible news, public affairs, and entertainment programming to meet its special needs as a diverse academic community. The station’s second goal is to provide a vehicle for the basic training and education of University students who have a general interest in the field of broadcasting as well as those who want to pursue broadcasting as a career. As volunteers at WVUA, students learn about most aspects of modern radio station operation including news and public affairs programming, budgeting, underwriting solicitation, personnel management, music programming, promotions, community service and on-air performance, within the context of a federally licensed “real world” radio station operation.