The LION 90.7 FM: A Fresh Start For The Student Station
“The Soundtrack to Penn State.” That is the slogan for one of the more popular radio stations on campus, The LION 90.7 FM, a station that has been through so much since its start in 1995. Competition, communication issues, its fan base, and budget cuts have been the main problems for the station over the past 20 years. However, things are starting to look up for the student-run radio station as it has found a new home in the newly renovated area of the HUB. While finding its new home, The LION has also gained new shows and more staff members as it tries to continue moving in the right direction.
WDFM to WKPS
In 1951, the graduating class conceived the idea of having its own campus radio station and pitched the concept to the board of directors. Two years later, WDFM — Penn State’s original student station — was given to the university as a class gift and Penn State’s first radio station was born. The date of its on-air debut was December 6, 1953. In 1985, the station changed its call letters to WPSU-FM. In the ’80s, funding of student programming began to cut back, and with less funding came less student radio.
In the early 1990’s, a large number of students recognized the lack of student radio at the university and wanted to do something about it. WPSU-FM was not going to give them the air time they wanted, so they thought of a solution. With a small amount of funding, the group started WKPS — a station similar to WDFM before its transition to WPSU. The official air date of WKPS was October 31, 1995. In 1999, the station began to broadcast Penn State football games.
The LION 90.7 FM (2000 – today)
In 2000, the station restructured its image and became “The LION 90.7 FM” in partnership with the College of Communications for funding and leadership. The college leased out the James Building to The LION for broadcasts. During the partnership, the college abused its power by wiring the student news station through the sound board without permission, with faculty interrupting live student-run shows. This led to what was locally known as “The LION Riot,” which involved an incident in 2001 where faculty interrupted a live show to confront the students (skip to 10:00 to hear the altercation). This eventually led to the end of the partnership, and The LION became independent once again in 2003 after they were forcibly evicted from the James Building.
After being moved from the James Building, The LION moved into Studio 9 on the ground floor of the HUB. Here, the station began experiencing a major funding cut which looked like the end of the station. However, in late 2005, the Student Radio Alumni Interest Group (SRAIG) renewed the stations’s FCC license that was held by the Penn State Board of Trustees. Since the renewal of the FCC license, the station had been consistently providing content made by students, for students. No matter what came the station’s way, The LION always seemed to somehow weather the storm and stay alive.
In early 2015, with the new renovation of the HUB, The LION 90.7 FM began its transition into a new studio. The station is currently broadcasting 17 shows — 10 on weekdays, 9 on weekends — and is looking for a “fresh start.”
“I think for a while we were hanging in the back and for the first half of this semester we were focused on transitioning into the new studio,” vice president of programming Ashley Zaya. “Now that we are finally in the studio and we’re getting settled in, we’re really on an upward trend. We’re finally getting that fresh start that we need.”
Getting A Fresh Start
The LION is getting that fresh start, and it certainly deserves one. In the short 20 years it has been around, it has gone through many controversies, funding cuts, and brushes with death. It is now looking to re-build and is looking for new faces.
“A lot of people didn’t know where we were in the old studio because we were behind the fish tank,” Zaya said. “But now that we have the great location of our studio in the new part of the HUB, we are hoping that we can attract more people to jump on board.”
If you want to be on the station, you do not have to be on the air. Zaya said there are many different things to do other than just talk. “We need people for promotions, we need a webmaster, a director of engineering, and we want people to know that there is more out there than just being on-air,” she said.
The station is also expanding its programming with the new additions of two new shows, Valley Magazine and the Onward State Old Timey Audio Hour. Zaya explained that the range of talk shows for the station is growing and she’s open to ideas. “Our talk shows have been growing, along with Radio Free we have Valley Magazine that just started a show and Onward State has its own show,” she said. “I’m open to any ideas that people bring me.”
President of The LION, Tyler Ball, is very excited about the addition of the new studio and hopes to make the most of the opportunities that the station has.
“The new studio gives us a great opportunity to recruit new members and to grow in popularity on campus,” Ball said. “We hope that our state of the art equipment will attract more students to participate in radio. My goal as president is to make The LION the best student radio station in the country, and this new studio helps out a lot with that goal.”
The station offers a lot of diversity in its programming and anyone can find something they enjoy. Some of the most popular shows on the station are Radio Free Penn State, The Sportsblitz, State Your Face, Jam 91, and Indie 500. Radio Free Penn State is is a public affairs talk show that focuses on topical issues relating to students at Penn State and the citizens of State College. The Sportsblitz is a daily sports-talk radio show that also broadcasts live Penn State football, basketball, and baseball games. State Your Face is a classic rock and new rock show. Jam 91 is the station’s only hip-hop show and Indie 500 is a show that focuses on independent artists and labels.
One iconic figure of the station is “Cosmic” Ray Cromie, who has been part of The LION since its inception. Cromie was the host of the show Avant Grande that aired from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. on the weekends. Cromie, who is easily recognizable by his long, grey dreadlocks, is getting up there in age, but he isn’t giving up what he loves, and that’s being on the air. Cromie has not been heard on the station for quite some time, however. Even if some people think it’s time to throw in the towel, only Cromie has the final say on when his radio career ends. In the station’s constitution, it states that Cromie will remain a member of The LION 90.7 FM for as long as he lives.
The LION 90.7 FM has been on an up and down trend for the past two decades, but it finally seems like it’s the station’s time to shine as it looks to rebrand. With a new studio and broader array of programming, The LION is confident in the future and hopes that it can reach and entertain the Penn State community. The students at the station encourage anyone that wants to join to e-mail president Tyler Ball. You can listen to The LION 90.7 FM on thelion.fm or download The LION 90.7 FM mobile application on the App Store.
Don’t forget to listen to the Onward State Old Timey Audio Hour every Sunday at 5 p.m. on The LION 90.7 FM.