WRCR/Rockford College Radio -- 1990s History
This history of WRCR was compiled from Rockford College newspaper articles, primarily the Collegian; recollections of students involved with WRCR, and messages posted on the WRCR list serve. This history was compiled by Ross Hunter '71and edited by Cece Forrester '72. Click a link above to visit other decades. In reviewing the old newspaper clippings there are two themes that surfaced every couple of years from the beginning of WRCR to its end in 1994: the hum caused by carrier current broadcasting and the hope of FM broadcasting. Student engineers over the years made great strides in overcoming the hum, but that FM dream was never realized.
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David Wilson was chosen General Manager in the Spring of 1990. For the 1990-91 school year the station hoped to be more "well-defined and streamlined". Talk shows and coverage of sporting events was planned. It was noted that equipment was in good working order.
The Fall of 1991 saw WRCR finally achieve the long sought goal of broadcasting on FM...sort of. WRCR began to broadcast on FM on the Rockford cable system on 98.9.
In April of 1993 WRCR celebrated its 30th anniversary, noting a renewed interest in the radio station. The station held an "April Insanity" music festival on April 24 at the Lion's Den featuring a number of Rockford bands.
In the Fall of 1994 GM John Bergstrom wrote a letter to the campus community explaining why WRCR was not on the air. He cited a number of technical problems, including the cutting of radio station transmission lines by campus construction, the delay in getting them repaired and the decision by Rockford Cablevision to disconnect the WRCR feed because it was unreliable. The theft of CDs and CD players from the station was also noted. Under the circumstances, Bergstrom said, it was impossible for WRCR to continue operation. In addition to those problems, WRCR faced staffing problems as Rockford College's on-campus population declined and the number of commuter students increased.
John May who was on the staff in 1992-93 remembers "The cutting of the line was suspected by a lot of involved students to have been something less than accidental, but whether it was or not, the administration took the opportunity to put an end to the station. Basically, they would not fix the line. William Shields was the (college) President. He was not a fan of us. I was not (eventually) a fan of him. Seemed like a nice enough guy. He, and a lot of the top administration, had an agenda for the school, sort of a weird Christian/PC mutation, and WRCR's occasionally raw content wasn't acceptable to President Shields. I knew his feelings toward the station well before the mysterious cutting of the cable, and the less mysterious refusal to fix the cable."
John Bergstrom remembers "When I left WRCR in 1994, the music library (not to mention the equipment) was hemorrhaging badly due to radio station staff and friends "borrowing" stuff and "forgetting" to return it, etc. We spent several hundred dollars on back catalog CDs in 1992 or 93 and most of it was gone, but there was still a ton of vinyl and at least a couple thousand CDs. This is all hearsay, but from people I know who worked at RC around 95-96: After the station closed, summer paint teams had a free for all taking stuff from the music library (I'm not sure about equipment). What was left was put in storage. An individual who worked for RC was said to have made a 5-figure lump-sum offer for the whole library and been turned down. This person, whose name I forget, died unexpectedly not long after this. That's the last I heard of the music library, but I did not get the impression that RC had made much of a priority of preserving it.
Inquires on campus in the Fall of 2004 failed to turn up anything but a few miscellaneous pieces of WRCR equipment. None of the record/CD library seems to have survived.
An October 1995 Regent Tribune article wrote of efforts to restart WRCR and noted it had lost its space in Lang due to renovations. The article also mentioned a cost of $91 a month to store 106 boxes of WRCR records. WRCR's greatest problem was said to be student support. At the time of the article WRCR had been off the air for almost a year. In addition over the years the on-campus student population had declined as more and more students became commuters. Thus it was difficult to find staff as well as listeners.
The history of WRCR ended in 1994, however a new station was planned for the fall of 2006. That history will be recorded on the 2000s page.