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By Blake Hamill '02
When Colby radio started up in 1949, it broadcast only three hours a week from the tower of Miller Library. A lot has changed in 53 years. In fact, a lot has changed in the last two.
For a while in the '60s the signal was delivered only on campus through electrical outlets. Now WMHB has a new image and global reach to go with it, broadcasting live on the Internet as well as the airwaves, employing a staff of about 100 (mostly volunteers), sponsoring on- and off-air events and garnering some of the strongest listener support among small college radio stations. How did WMHB reach the top of the charts?
"Well, there's no such thing as bad press," said General Manager Lee L'Heureux '03, from the station's digs in the basement of Roberts. "When the station ran into trouble with the FCC in 1999 [an inadvertent lapse in the station's licensing], we received a lot of exposure in both the Echo and Waterville's Morning Sentinel. The exposure took us from a few listeners to many more, from Colby and Waterville."
Ultimately, the exposure and community response helped in WMHB's redevelopment. Innovative programming such as the Live Music Week held last fall boosted listener numbers. Each night WMHB featured a different genre of music performed live by groups hailing from as far as New York and Pennsylvania and as close as Mayflower Hill.
Other events and features expanded the audience further. The station's annual holiday food drive provides the largest donation of food to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, and live broadcasts of varsity sports events and interviews with President Bro Adams have drawn airwaves listeners in central Maine and Internet listeners worldwide.
Despite the changes, some things remain constant. Among the most popular offerings are the student-run radio shows. This fall, 115 would-be DJs applied for 75 slots; the result was radio shows with names as varied as "Spinergy," "Sounds All 'Round the World" and "Reagan Rock Rewind."
L'Heureux, who comes from Waterville and had been a WMHB DJ before he enrolled at Colby, encourages this diversity. "If you've got a good idea, we'll make sure to get it on the air," he said.
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