It was a simple equation: WB for Western Baptist. X for Christ. KWBX.
Call letters familiar to local radio listeners, yes. But to Corban students? Probably not.
With students hailing from Alaska, Hawaii, and even as far as Indonesia, chances are slim that most know about the miniature tower and antennae that sits atop the Academic Center.
They haven’t been there long, less than eight years. But they serve as a broadcast center for Air 1, the “positive alternative” sister station to KLOVE. Air 1 services listeners as far north as Woodburn and as far south as Corvallis.
The story of how the tower and antennae came to be atop the elevator shaft is a little-known piece of Corban’s history.
When Mike Allegre was hired to work in what’s now the Marketing Department, he brought with him a vision. It was a vision that he shared with business professor Bryce Bernard, who at that time was Vice President of Academics.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if Corban had a way to broadcast their own games instead of having them broadcast through the local station?’” Allegre said.
Since the Internet wasn’t broadcast-capable at the time, radio seemed a viable venue.
“Nobody listened to basketball games on the Internet,” Allegre added. “And the station in town lost interest.”
Radio was the way to go. And with that, the ball was rolling. Corban was after a low-power radio frequency, which the school found in 90.3, after some collaboration with the FCC.
“The FCC didn’t give us that frequency. God gave us that frequency,” Allegre said. Every station to the right was commercial programming, and Corban’s leaders wanted a non-commercial station they could use to broadcast games.
Once they found an available frequency, they had to secure a license, which didn’t take long. The problem they ran into, Allegre said, was “We had no equipment, no support, and no automation.”
One of the purposes of having a radio station was to train students to broadcast Christian programming, but with students off campus for four months of the year during the summer, an essentially student-run radio station just wasn’t possible.
With no infrastructure, the endeavor might have stopped there. But Allegre was determined to see it through. He had heard that Air 1 was looking for a place to establish a station in Salem, so he decided to pursue that path.
“Dan Sheaths, from KCCS [which is no longer on air], suggested to me, ‘Hey, why don’t you contact someone from KLOVE and see about leasing the frequency to them?’” Allegre said.
Allegre did, and KLOVE staff told him that both KLOVE and Air 1 were run by the same company in California. With that information, Allegre, Dr. Reno Hoff, Corban president, and Steve Hunt, vice president for Marketing, met with corporate and made a pitch: the frequency belonged to Corban, and while the programming would be primarily Air 1 music, Corban could broadcast up to 14 games per year, both men’s and women’s.
“They said no,” Allegre said. “I thought for sure they were going to walk away at that point. But they came around.”
And thus, the partnership was born.
Since the Corban-Air 1 partnership was born and the tower established in 2002, there have been changes. Games are no longer aired on the station, because advances in technology allow all game information and updates to be posted online.
But on the other hand, to date, several other elements still exist. “Whassup,” which can be heard twice every hour, informs locals about events taking place in the community. These events are submitted by churches or schools — or anyone who wants to “get the word out about an event” — and are written up and then sent to Air 1 for recording.
If there are no events to highlight, the station airs a short blip about Corban – the programs it offers, where it is and other helpful information about the college.
How much of a marketing tool is it for Corban?
“We don’t rely on it, but it is a plus, in that we benefit from offering public service announcements every hour 24/7 and reminding them of our name,” Hunt said.
One bonus to the partnership is that the tower services an area of Oregon that otherwise would not be able to listen to Air 1 and receive the positive, encouraging Christian message it offers.
“90.3 is a station that runs out of Mt. Hood, out of Welches, and out of Eugene,” Allegre said. “With the station established in Salem, Air 1 essentially broadcasts up and down the West Coast in Oregon.”
That should be encouraging to Corban students – to know that the station broadcasting from the top of a building on their little campus is helping to spread the gospel to one of the top 10 least-religious states in the nation.
Add to that the fact that “Corban is one of two colleges that broadcasts Air 1 in the entire nation,” according to Bernard, and this becomes a big deal.
“There’s a lot more to radio than turning on a switch,” Allegre said.