Hands-on radio broadcasting opportunities offered at BC


In the Basic Broadcasting class, students learn about the history of broadcast radio, get an understanding of the transition from AM to PM to FM, the difference in those stations and they get a context for the information they learn. The class, as well as the two more advanced classes that follow (Radio News Broadcasting, 261, and Radio Operations, 163) are integrated and hands-on. There is a broadcasting lab on campus where students are introduced to equipment, and they also do a tour of the KBCS radio station, a community radio station that started off as a BC student-driven project.

“We’re giving students the basics of the field and preparing them,” said Katherine Oleson, chair of the communication studies department. Students enrolled in broadcasting classes have the opportunity and experience to move forward, if they wish, but can also choose to take the class without gearing themselves towards a broadcasting career.

“You learn the whole gamut, how it all works,” said Art Sanders, instructor of the BC broadcasting classes. “When you see how news is presented, on television, radio and the Internet, you’ll get a better grasp of why it’s there, why it’s positioned the way it is, written the way it’s written, and you’ll understand the thought process behind what happens.

“We talk about primarily radio, but we also discuss the development of television, also the development of internet and new technologies as well,” Sanders said. The course incorporates concepts that revolve around mass media, but is more specialized, giving students the opportunity to get hands-on experience with the equipment, something not offered by the typical mass media course.

“I just enjoy working with students, especially students who are interested in moving into the broadcasting business, whether as a talent, engineer, production people or even sales,” he said. “It’s gratifying to help them and show them the opportunities that exist, and help them find jobs in the industry.” His students have gone on to work at various stations in various specialties, including KBCS.

Sanders said, “The very first day I come in and ask, ‘What are your interests?’” Responses range from having plans to pursue a career in the field with very specific goals to needing another elective and not knowing what to take. “I’ve actually had students that have done that and then they’ve come out saying, ‘I want to go into this business.’ It’s great,” he shared.

KBCS, celebrating its 42nd anniversary next month, is a community radio station that started off as a BC student-driven station. In the mid-80s, the station shifted towards a community managed station, hiring long-term employees, specialists and professionals, because the high turnover rate of student employees inhibited the station’s ability to excel.

Steve Ramsey, KBCS general manager, who has been with the station since 2000, said:

“It transitioned from being part of the academic offerings to more of a community radio station. They brought in a professional manager, who had community radio background, who developed the format and directed all the fund raising and the staff supervision.”

“I have anecdotal information,” he said, “but the main thing that I’ve gleaned is that the management structure wasn’t sustainable with the high turnover of students and there was one instructor who was in charge, functionally the manager, and that wasn’t sustainable either given his teaching load. Rather than lose the frequency completely, the administration at the college decided to bring in my predecessor to take the station to the next level.”

Ramsey said KBCS gets funding from Student Programs by earning a grant every year. “All the clubs apply for funding from that source, and we do too,” he said. “I use that to hire students every year who don’t qualify for work study. I decided years ago to actually hire students with that money because we have a greater need than we can afford to pay for and the students that we hire, we treat them like professional staff and give them responsibilities that are critical to how we operate.”

The station is involved in Continuing Education, offering an eight-week, hands-on basic broadcasting training class that is taught in the KBCS building.

“We treat it as a volunteer intake process, if people are interested in being on the radio, we require them to take these classes. Most of our volunteers come through the Continuing Ed program,” Ramsey said.

Broadcasting can be a part-time job, “It just depends on the radio station,” he said. The station has a small paid staff, but most of the contributors are volunteers. “We raise all of our funds from the community, Bellevue College doesn’t give us any direct cash. We don’t pay rent, electricity and there are some other in-kind services that we don’t pay for.” He continued, “That being said, we’re not a radio station that pays many of its air staff.”

“What I’d be looking for is someone who is fundamentally curious about the world. By curious what I mean is they’re willing to question what is presented to them, or they see something that’s interesting and they want to know more. They’re open to learning about things that are outside their particular frame of reference.”

He continued, “You need to be an excellent writer and communicator. Writing and speaking are two different things, but you need to be able to verbalize and compose your thoughts clearly, effectively and uniquely.”

Students interested in basic broadcasting can sign up for the class offered in spring or can volunteer at the station.