Early hurdles for broadcast

Editor’s note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his “50 years at Fredonia.” Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.


Then there were the television and radio studios. Originally two TV studios were planned for the ground floor of McEwen. Happily we were allowed to redesign them by removing the wall between them and making one large studio. We also were able to move the control room down from the first – actually the second – floor thus making it easier for future TV directors.

The studios were equipped with the finest black and white cameras money could buy ignoring the rapidly advancing use of color technology. (The company that won the contract to equip the studios, Visual Electronics, soon went bankrupt.) These cameras, costing in excess of $20,000, required the constant attention of a technician. The images were recorded on two commercial recording machines that cost over $60,000-later colorized for $40,000. (Happily we were able to salvage some monies later by selling the French lenses from the cameras to film producers.)

There was provision for dressing rooms but these were soon converted to photographic dark rooms and at this writing they are used by WCVF for offices and restrooms.

Radio was another story. Since we were the only campus to ask for a suite of studios we were given space in the building on the third floor. The formula for allocating the space must have been some arcane method multiplying the existing space in Fenton times how many times enrollment had grown since 1952.

In the final version the space had two control rooms, two small announcing booths, a larger studio, and even a one-way access window in the main control room that overlooked the largest lecture hall seating 324 people. Across the hall were a record library, newsroom, and two spacious offices.

These even had that rare thing in the Pei complex-windows that opened. The equipment was the best that could be obtained even to a high-speed duplicator that would turn out multiple copies of audio recordings in a short period of time. (An hour could be compressed into 3.5 minutes.) While this equipment was the best it was far less costly than that allocated for television. At one point the College’s Facilities Coordinator, Douglas Carter called and suggested we might want to add some things.

One of the things we added was a Steinway “Type M” baby grand piano. Doug picked this piano out personally in Buffalo. Later the piano would be literally “attacked” by the resident Music Department piano instructor who happened to be a BALDWIN artist. (Nevertheless she eventually taught classes in the space since it was and is a good place to work and teach.)

As it turned out the studio, originally designed to house WCVF, the campus radio station, became mainly a space for instruction in radio.

WCVF had expanded its hours to the point where it conflicted with the academic program. WCVF obtained separate space first in the Dods Hall press booth and then to Jewett basement, Gregory Hall, and finally to the vacated graphics and photography space in McEwen.

John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.