UNC is a university full of firsts. Not only does it claim the title of the first public university, but it is also the home of WXYC — UNC's student-run radio station and the first ever to do a live internet broadcast.
“Two DJs who happened to be computer science majors were like ‘Hey, what if we broadcasted online?' They just held a microphone in front of a boom box and recorded that way to get it online, and since then it’s obviously become a lot more sophisticated," WXYC Communications Manager Taylor Tyson said. "We even have an app now.”
Being stationed in Chapel Hill, a town known as a hub for underground music, WXYC aims to play a wide variety of music — spanning from zydeco to funk to synth-pop.
“We don’t do block programming, which would mean that we would have like an hour of hip-hop music and then an hour of rock and then an hour of jazz,” Station Manager Elinor Walker said. “DJs are encouraged to play a wide range and variety of music genres."
Walker said the wide variety of music played is intentional so that listeners have an opportunity to hear different sounds from around the world that they otherwise would not be exposed to.
In the fall of 1994, WXYC expanded its broadcasts to the internet with the goal of increasing access to their show beyond the Triangle region. Using Cu-SeeMe technology developed at Cornell University, WXYC became the first radio station in the world to live-stream its broadcasts over the internet.
WREK at the Georgia Institute of Technology and KJHK at the University of Kansas in Lawrence were also working toward creating an internet broadcast for their stations in 1994, but did not go official until after WXYC.
“The live stream has been important in increasing access to freeform radio and the underrepresented artists we hope to give a platform," WXYC Business Manager Amy Vaughn said. "It has also helped keep a very large community of DJs now spread out all over the world close together. So many of the phone calls we get are from alumni based in New York or California telling us how great it is that we're keeping things going."
The radio station broadcasts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year from the Student Union.
Since first broadcasting on the internet, WXYC has evolved with technology to increase connections with its evolving audience. Regardless, WXYC still remains true to the live, free-form station roots, with a DJ in the station 24 hours a day, hand-selecting music for its listeners.
“In my position I work more on our internet and social media, and I want to make us an accessible arts community," Tyson said. "I want people to be able to see what’s going on in the station, see what we’re doing, see what we’re learning and also be able to interact with us a bit more.”
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