WBCX at Brenau University started as a 10-watt radio station, and today it is a digital operation with modern studios and a broadcast footprint that covers much of North Georgia.
The station is celebrating its 40th anniversary. It was founded in 1976, with the efforts of Clara Martin, a journalism professor; John Jacobs, chairman of Brenau’s board and owner of Jacobs Media; and professor James Bridwell.
Jones P. “Jay” Andrews, the school’s director of broadcasting and digital communications, has come full circle with WBCX. He was its first student station manager in 1977 and came back to be the program’s director in 2012 after a lengthy radio career in the Atlanta and North Georgia areas.
Andrews said Jacobs wanted the radio station to be “a learning lab for students on air.” He added, “Nobody knew what that meant — including me.”
He can, and does, spin tale after tale about the evolution of the station from its first studio on the top floor of Pearce Auditorium.
The equipment was a bit sparse, in his telling — a microphone from WQXI, an old board from Jacobs Media, one turntable, one cassette deck.
“I learned so much in this radio station,” he said — and repeated.
Martin, who was hired at the school as a public relations specialist, became a journalism instructor.
“We went after an educational radio frequency,” she said of the initial radio efforts because she had spent most of her career in broadcasting. She noted her husband and she both worked for Jacobs Media.
The first license “only covered the campus,” Martin said.
Andrews described it as “you could hear the radio station all the way to the square — maybe to the hospital — if it was a clear day.”
Martin explained the college then applied for, and received, a Class D license, which was 100 FM watts.
A full license — and the frequency 89.1 — was the final step, she said.
Martin also pointed out, “at one time, we had the only radio station that was staffed entirely by women.”
The station today has about 30 students involved in the station’s operation “in some form,” Andrews said.
Andrews also worked for Jacobs Media and was vice president for broadcasting when he returned to Brenau.
His office now is in the John W. Jacobs Business & Mass Communications Building on Green Street.
Martin said the purchase of the former First National Bank building and conversion to the business building was a big event in the station’s evolution. Jacobs pushed that purchase, and paid for a significant part of it.
She said it was “a real boost upwards” for the school’s radio and TV studios. Andrews said the TV studios are used regularly — and the results are posted on Brenau’s YouTube page.
The radio station plays adult pop standards from the 1960s to the 1990s in the day and jazz at night.
Andrews has a morning show from 6-8 a.m. Other shows include Health Matters with David Miller; the Brenau Buzz & Beats show, produced by the WBCX student station manager and Brenau students; Gainesville community volunteer programs such as The Chattahoochee Folk Hour, Ground Level and Fusion A La Moe.
Andrews said the station has a diverse audience. “We play a lot of different music,” he said, praising the local shows.
He specifically mentioned Fusion A La Moe with Moe Lyons — “arguably one of the most mentioned shows we have” — as a show that is “very, very different” and offers a broad range of music. It is on from 8 p.m. to midnight on Friday.
Andrews said the station will remain a part of Brenau.
“I think WBCX is going to be here quite a while,” he said.
But he also said the “next step for all of this is online.”