On January 5, IU physics professor Rolla Roy Ramsey conducts a demonstration of “wireless telephony” for a group of 75 students and faculty. Ramsey’s experiments spark the first calls for a radio station on campus.
Professor Lee Norvelle of the Department of Speech and Theater contracts with WIRE of Indianapolis to produce IU’s first regular radio programs, a series of eclectic 15 minute music and discussion segments.
Professor H.J. Skornia comes to IU as director of radio programs (then a part of the Department of Speech). He begins a massive push for a campus radio station.
The IU Board of Trustees issues a proclamation that “it would be desirable and practicable for Indiana University to own and operate a frequency modulation [fm] noncommercial educational broadcast station.”
The first regular season of The Indiana School of the Sky begins on October 6. The 15 minute program airs every weekday as an educational supplement for elementary and high school classrooms around the state. In its first season, 12 stations carry the program and an estimated 23.5% of Indiana’s high schools tune in during the year.
The early years of WFIU
The IU Department of Radio is created.
The FCC approves application for construction for an FM broadcast station licensed to the trustees of Indiana University with call letters “WFIU” and a frequency of 90.9 FM. Construction is commenced in the late spring and completed on September 26.
WFIU’s first broadcast takes place on September 30, 1950. During its first nine months of operation, the station averages 37.5 hours of programming per week. Residents of nearby dorms occasionally report picking up the station on dental fillings, eyeglasses and electric shavers.
Almost immediately, Bloomington television viewers begin complaining that the WFIU signal interferes with WFBM-TV out of Indianapolis, which had been reaching Bloomington by a freak of the land. WFIU restricts its broadcast to hours when TV is not broadcasting, and works with RCA to install local TV sets with “wave traps” to block the far stronger WFIU signal.
WFIU moves on the FM band from 90.9 to 103.7 to eliminate local TV interference problems.
The broadcast day extends from 12:55 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.
Ross Allen joins us as host of Your Sunday Opera.
There are 2,500 discs in the WFIU library.
The WFIU library has grown to 7,500 discs.
The Indiana University Sports Network is launched in September just in time for the football opener, an 18-0 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend. The brain child of professor Dick Yoakam, the IUSN originates broadcasts that are then relayed by partner stations all over the state. The program aims to give aspiring announcers broadcasting opportunity, and for its first three years, HPER graduate student Dick Enberg is student announcer.
The broadcast day is extended by one hour, 12:55 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.
In March, the station carries its first Metropolitan Opera broadcast. (WHAS in Louisville tapes the live Saturday production and sends it to WFIU for broadcast on Tuesday evenings.)
In May, WFIU initiates Jazz Review, a scripted 15_minute program produced by two IU students, Phillip Jones and Richard Bishop. The appearance of this program marks the beginning of WFIU’s continuing commitment to jazz programming.
WFIU receives permission to broadcast Met Opera productions live on Saturday afternoons during the 1960/61 season. This makes WFIU the only Met broadcast in the state of Indiana, and one of only two university stations to have carried the Met up to this point in time.
In October, WFIU carries its first broadcast live from Recital Hall in the IU School of Music. (We believe this to have been a piano recital by faculty member Menachem Pressler.)
WFIU moves into the new Indiana University Radio-TV Center, its present home.
The NPR era
WFIU becomes one of 90 charter members of National Public Radio. On May 3, the station carries the first broadcast of All Things Considered, featuring Susan Stamberg as the first woman to anchor a daily national broadcast.
Ether Game is created by Special Projects Director, Don Glass.
WFIU’s first call-in show, Rap Line, created.
On March 18, WFIU begins broadcasting eighteen hours a day, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Elizabeth Burnham of Burnham Unlimited becomes WFIU’s first commercial underwriter when she offers support for Library of Congress Chamber Music Series.
In April, WFIU approaches its public with the question of financial support. The appeal is made with a low_key suggestion in the station’s program guide, Directions in Sound, and is linked to the station’s desire to obtain new equipment for stereo broadcasts.
WFIU holds its first fund drive (Nov. 7-13), which raises $9326 from 519 contributors. The average contribution is $17.97.
In July, WFIU begins broadcasting a stereo signal. The conversion involves 6,200 feet of wire, 3,700 solder connections and 1,100 connectors, as well as a great deal of other equipment.
In October, WFIU announces to its listeners that it will begin distributing its monthly program guide, Directions in Sound, to listeners who join the “Friends of WFIU.”
WFIU provides live coverage of IU Swimming Coach Doc Counsilman’s historic swim across the English Channel. At 58, Counsilman was the oldest person to date to accomplish the feat.
The station begins broadcast of NPR’s Morning Edition, a two hour news and information program.
WFIU goes online with the new NPR satellite system in late February, replacing the round-robin phone line network.
In September, WFIU begins airing Music from Indiana, a series of concerts and recitals from the Indiana University School of Music. Produced by WFIU and the IU Center for Music Broadcasting in conjunction with the IU School of Music, the series is distributed to nine stations in a three-state area (Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan).
WFIU produces its first live satellite broadcast in April when it presents the IU Philharmonic, conducted by IU SOM professor Thomas Baldner at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. The program is carried by thirteen stations coast to coast.
Programs from Music from Indiana are chosen to air on National Public Radio’s NPR Recital Hall.
American Public Radio (APR) selects Music from Indiana for national distribution. Located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, at the time APR is responsible for the distribution of such programs as A Prairie Home Companion and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Approximately 600 WFIU listeners donate approximately $15,000 as part of a national effort to help save NPR from bankruptcy.
Music from Indiana is distributed to 60 public radio stations throughout the station.
WFIU announces that Music from Indiana will be made available through NPR’s Extended Program Service, making the series available to all NPR affiliates regardless of secondary affiliation status.
NPR begins distributing Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon.
NPR begins distributing Weekend Edition Sunday, Performance Today, Fresh Air and Car Talk.
WFIU sponsors the Carmichael Competition for original compositions by Indiana composers in classical, jazz and traditional music.
A Moment of Science, a two-minute science module produced in the studios of WFIU, is syndicated nationally.
Why You Can Never Get to the End of the Rainbow, an A Moment of Science book, is published by IU Press.
WFIU invites all of its listeners over its own airwaves to its first annual “Listener Reception” — an event at which listeners can meet and socialize with the station staff and on-air personalities.
WFIU begins broadcasting 24 hours a day. The Beethoven Satellite Network is programmed from midnight until 6am each day.
WFIU’s fund drive garners $100,000 in pledges.
Harmonia and Earthnote introduced.
WFIU brings one of radio’s greatest cult figures to Bloomington: Garrison Keillor. WFIU members purchase tickets to see a live performance of Keillor’s American Radio Company (renamed A Prairie Home Companion a year later) and attend a post-performance benefit reception. Proceeds from the reception help the station establish a fund for a working student interested in radio broadcasting—a dream far beyond the resources generated by WFIU’s annual fund drive.
WFIU implements a computer database to store its CD and recording inventory.
Harmonia’s National Women’s History Month Special, “Women’s Voices, Yesterday and Today,” is distributed by Public Radio International and carried by over sixty stations nationally.
The internet era
From $100,000 in 1991, listener pledges during fund drive double to over $214,000.
Harmonia is syndicated by satellite. Over sixty stations carry the program in a matter of weeks.
WFIU launches its first presence on the World Wide Web, wfiu.indiana.edu.
Terre Haute (now Hometown with Tom Roznowski), is created and broadcast by WFIU.
WFIU adds sound capability to the World Wide Web site. Program samples are available on-line.
Ask the Mayor begins in March.
How Can You Tell if a Spider is Dead?, a second A Moment of Science book, is published by IU Press.
In cooperation with Indiana State University and with support from the Oakley Foundation, WFIU installs a translator (a remote station that receives and rebroadcasts a signal) on top of the ISU School of Education Building. WFIU can now be heard on 95.1 FM in Terre Haute.
An additional translator is installed in Indiana, giving birth to 100.7 FM in Columbus.
Indiana University Kokomo and WFIU install a translator on the IUK campus. Kokomo can now receive the signal on 106.1 FM.
WFIU begins the broadcast of Profiles, a weekly interview program.
WFIU expands its public service on the internet to include, among other things, archived audio interviews of world-renowned artists and interactive musical games and puzzles.
In October, WFIU begins streaming its live broadcast over the internet, becoming one of only 27 public radio stations to offer such a service. With the appropriate computer applications, WFIU’s broadcast service can now be accessed anywhere in the world.
WFIU coordinates with the public radio stations of IPBS-Radio to produce Hoagy!, an hour-long special commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Bloomington native and IU grad Hoagy Carmichael.
WFIU celebrates 50 years of broadcasting, since its humble beginnings in September 1950.
WFIU adds translators in Greensburg, Indiana (98.9 FM) as well as in French Lick/West Baden (101.7 FM).
WFIU introduces podcasts of several shows, available directly from wfiu.org, or iTunes.
In the summer, WFIU begins broadcasting digitally on 103.7 FM using HD Radio. In addition to the analog FM signal, two digital broadcast streams are available, HD1 and HD2, doubling the amount of content available to listeners equipped with an HD radio. Both HD1 and HD2 are streamed online too, for those that do not have an HD radio.
Just before the 2008 US Presidential Election, WFIU and WTIU launches a special election live coverage website, offering up-to-the-minute tallies of national, state and local election results in WFIU’s coverage area.
WFIU changes its web address from wfiu.indiana.edu to wfiu.org, and begins to use the popular content management system WordPress.
WFIU celebrates 60 years of continuous operation.
StateImpact Indiana wins a national Murrow award for its coverage of the spread of charter schools in the state.
WFIU launches on a new platform for individually-customized radio listening, NPR One. A continuous stream of audio segments, tailored to the listener’s interests, is delivered on a user’s mobile device, and includes a mix of national and local programming.
WFIU HD1 and HD2 are renamed WFIU1 and WFIU2. The station launches WFIU2 as an analog translator in Bloomington, at 101.9 FM, in addition to its 103.7 HD2 digital channel. The station also launches a WFIU2 analog translator in Seymour at 100.1 FM.
Along with WTIU, WFIU begins undertaking a major building renovation and reorganization, which will last more than a year.
Staff and listeners are also saddened by the passing of Dick Bishop, 78, WFIU’s longest-tenured host and producer. Dick joined the station as a young student in 1957.
In spring, WFIU participates in StoryCorps, a national project to record and archive interviews of thousands of Americans from all walks of life. StoryCorps’ mobile recording booth, in the form of a refurbished Airstream trailer, parks at Showers Plaza in Bloomington and records dozens of local residents’ voices. Many of these are aired by the station over the summer.
In summer, the WFIU/WTIU News team takes home two national Murrow awards for best social media and best news series.
In the fall, WFIU re-dedicates its primary studio (Studio 3) as the Milton Metz Studio, in honor of a gift from the Metz family, and in memory of national radio and television personality Milton Metz.
Harmonia is now syndicated to over 140 stations nationally.
A Moment of Science airs nationally and on several international networks.
Many WFIU programs are available on several platforms, including HD (digital) radio, online streaming and archives, podcasts, and mobile devices.
The WFIU library now houses over 20,000 recordings, a quarter of which are on CD. This collection grows daily.
WFIU broadcasts 24 hours a day, with a signal strength from Bloomington that covers south-central Indiana, and reaches an average of about 40,000 listeners weekly. Together with the distribution capabilities of national syndication, and its presence on the world wide web, WFIU’s listeners potentially number in the millions.