Since its modest beginnings in 1934, the Pasadena City College radio broadcast program has developed into a point of pride for both the college and the community. What began as a monthly broadcast from the Pasadena Presbyterian Church’s radio station has since grown into a full-fledged, student-run station with a loyal local and online audience. Rich in history and tradition, the PCC radio broadcast program is truly world-class and unlike any other curriculum offered at the community college level.
A Peek into the Past
Just a decade after Pasadena Junior College was founded, students and staffers began taking their voices to the radio waves. In 1934, the college started monthly broadcasts over KPPC, the Pasadena Presbyterian church’s radio station. These early broadcasts, featuring the biological science and music departments of the college, were given in place of the regular “Civic Hour” from KPPC.
The college began offering coursework in radio and broadcasting in 1936 with the addition of a radio production and technique course to the curriculum. More radio courses were eventually added each semester, eventually forming the Radio Division.
In 1942, the Radio Division classes featured an experimental program every Monday night on KPCS. In conjunction with the Chronicle, they produced a program called “Presenting Pasadena for Pasadena Preferred.” The program featured Pasadena history. Other Radio Division classes included PJC musical and dramatic groups. Students also participated in the CBS This Living World radio series during 1943-44.
With a student body tremendously interested in the medium, the college established its first radio studio in 1947. The station afforded students greater opportunities for creative expression and provided an additional means for advertising the school and its activities to the community. The initial AM radio studio consisted of a studio classroom, engineering room, work room, and reception room. As the college had no transmitter or broadcasting license, the studio fed programming to local radio stations for broadcast.
An FM station (KPCS) was added a decade later in 1957 with a transmitter purchased from KWKW. The studio and transmitter were located on campus and its signal reached metropolitan Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. It held the distinction of being one of the few FCC licensed stations in the nation operated by a two-year college.
KPCS won dozens of national and local broadcasting award during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Reflecting the fact that the station was no longer under the auspices of Pasadena City Schools, the call letters were changed to the more appropriate “KPCC” at the end of 1971.
The campus radio station entered an unprecedented decade of growth in 1988, when the college replaced the low-power transmitter and radio tower that originally sat on top of the C Building with a modern, high-power transmission facility on Mt. Wilson. KPCC’s studios and offices abandoned their cramped quarters in the C Building in 1993 when their new facilities opened in the New Media Center. KPCC’s service area expanded to cover the area between northern San Diego County and Ventura County.
In 1999, the college contracted with Southern California Public Radio (SCPR), a subsidiary of Minnesota Public Radio, to manage the day-to-day operations of the station. Most music and some local programming were replaced by network programming from National Public Radio.
As a result of the change in management, KPCC’s role as a teaching institution changed. Although a handful of students from the Communications Division continued to serve internships in the technical side of the station operations, fewer and fewer students were actually heard “on air.” To compensate for this disappearing student voice, the college started a student-run, one-watt radio station (88.9 FM) in 1998. Also known as Lancer Radio, the station serves the educational needs for radio broadcast students.A Glimpse into the Working Classroom
Through a combination of traditional coursework, hands-on training, and a dose of field work, PCC students are given a rigorous education not usually found or expected at a two-year institution. Additionally, students learn and work in a state-of-the-art facility once occ
upied by the number one radio station in Southern California. Studying radio broadcasting at PCC is as close to working at a real-world radio station as it gets.
“What sets PCC’s radio broadcasting program apart from those at other colleges is that we put students into practical, hands-on situations almost immediately,” said Scott Carter, a radio broadcasting instructor.
There are currently four classes that provide programming and operations to the station. TVR2B is an operations course that gives students the opportunity to operate the board for live shows and to program the station’s automation system. TVR14A and 14B are radio production classes that provide weekly music, talk shows, and news to the station. Finally, TVR120 is a radio workshop class that facilitates students’ weekly shows and teaches the writing and production skills needed to deliver live shows via podcasts.
Lancer Radio recently inherited KPCC’s studio after the station moved to a new facility off campus. “Our move over into KPCC’s old space has made it possible for our students to run two live shows at once, while also giving students the ability to edit and mix pre-recorded pieces for upcoming shows,” said Sarah Barker, instructor of television and radio production and co-faculty advisor for Lancer Radio. “In that sense, we are operating much like a commercial radio station. This kind of experience and sense of real broadcast “pacing” is invaluable in preparing our students for the “real world” marketplace in a very competitive industry.”
PCC currently offers Occupational Skills Certificates in Radio Broadcast Operations and Radio Production, Certificates of Achievement in Radio Production and Broadcast Journalism, and official certification by the Society of Broadcasting Engineers.
“I think one of the most remarkable things about Lancer Radio is that it is truly a student-operated station,” Barker said. “We are not affiliated in any way with National Public Radio or American Public Media, which means everything you hear on Lancer Radio is student-
produced, -written, and -performed.”
In addition to the four courses that provide programming for the station, students who have completed required courses are able to produce their own shows as well. Lancer Radio’s schedule currently includes more than 10 shows, one of which is produced and hosted by PCC faculty. In addition to student programming, Lancer Radio Station Manager Valentino Rivera provides sports coverage at various PCC sporting events.
The current Lancer Radio line-up includes several music shows featuring up-and-coming bands. The musicians are invited into the studio for an interview and performance. “Voice of America,” which is hosted by John Samuel, is a weekly talk show addressing veteran’s affairs. “Over Coffee,” which is hosted by Dot Cannon, as well as “The Connor Bubble, which is hosted by PCC faculty member Joe Connor, are two weekly current affairs programs. “The Play-By-Play, currently hosted by Justin Bernal and Zack Elkhady, is a weekly sports talk show.
“Although a student-operated station, the radio courses offered at PCC are exceptional and prepare these students to produce good radio and good content,” Barker said. “I have had several experiences with listening to my students’ programming and thought to myself that this is something I might hear on a public radio station.”
Alums on the Air
“Many employers are absolutely blown away at how much experience and familiarity with procedures and equipment PCC students have when applying for jobs,” Carter said. “PCC teaches hands-on performance with industry-standard audio editing and automation software, as well as common broadcast hardware. Lancer Radio puts the classroom training into actual on-air experience.”
Bruna Nessif, a senior communications major with an emphasis in broadcast journalism at Cal State Fullerton, found her passion for media while studying at PCC. She was initially drawn to psychology, but quickly switched gears after taking a br
oadcast news writing course. “That class changed everything; I felt like I finally found my niche,” Nessif said. As she delved deeper into broadcast journalism, she began taking radio classes as well. As a student in Carter’s radio workshop, Nessif had her own half-hour show, “The Dish,” that was broadcasted live each week. “It was primarily about love, sex, and dating,” she said. “It was definitely a class that has impacted my life to this day and Scott Carter, who instructed the workshop, has become my mentor.”
Nessif recently interned with E! News and is currently freelancing for E! Online. She also serves as the vice president of the Society of Professional Journalists Fullerton chapter. After graduating from college this spring, she hopes to land a job as a television and radio personality.
“Studying radio at PCC changed my life,” said Victoria Martinez, another former PCC radio broadcasting student. While studying history at the college, she interned at KPCC and KOST. “Once I got the basic radio skills from PCC, I was able to slide into a position at KFI, Los Angeles’ number one talk station.” With the skills that Martinez acquired at PCC, she was able to support herself while finishing her bachelor’s at Cal State Los Angeles. Following graduation, she landed a job in Portland working on a morning show and hosting her own Saturday morning show.
Proud Past, Global future
From a rigorous curriculum to cutting-edge technology training, graduates from the PCC radio broadcast program receive an unparalleled education. This skill set not only translates to success on the job, but to solid achievements in the real world as well. PCC is extremely proud to instill students with the skills to succeed and to redefine employer expectations at every turn.